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Question

179. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if she will address the decreased number of liquor licensing applications for 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26826/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the vast majority of on-trade liquor licence renewals. The Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018, contain statutory provisions for the issue and renewal by the Revenue Commissioners of excise licences for the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor in premises to which on-licences are attached, such as public houses, restaurants, and theatres, as well as those premises to which off licences are attached, such as specialist off licences and mixed trading premises. Under the Finance (1909-10) Act 1910, all retailer’s licences expire on 30 September, and are renewable.
Where the premises have been licensed in the immediately preceding year, licences are in most cases renewed automatically by the Revenue Commissioners on payment of the required excise duty and compliance with tax clearance requirements, unless an objection to renewal has been lodged with the District Court or if there has been a change to the nature of their licence. Rates of duty applicable to licence renewal are applied by the Revenue Commissioners under the Finance Acts. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of relevant licences issued in 2020 signifies a decrease of less than 1% from the number of licences issued in 2019.
Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. This includes responsibility for granting of licensing applications such as restaurant certificates, special exemption orders, club certificates, public dancing licences and music and singing licences. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and I am advised by the Courts Service that there has been a 73% decrease in the number of licences issued in 2020 compared to 2019. This is predominately due to the reduction in special exemption orders which permit extended opening hours. Such special exemption orders are required to be obtained for each individual night of extended opening hours, therefore, this substantive decrease is a direct result of the extended closures due to the pandemic.
The Government is acutely aware of the unique circumstances which licence holders find themselves in as a result of COVID-19 and of the importance of helping and supporting these businesses as they get back on their feet. To this effect, court fees and their associated excise and stamp duty relating to renewal of licences were waived last year as part of the wider support package that was announced by the Government. Further to this, the District Court (Fees) (Amendment) Order 2020, waived court fees for specified pub and other liquor licences in 2020. In addition, Revenue waived the excise duty on the renewal of on-trade liquor licences renewals whose licences expired on 30 September 2020. Active consideration is being given to how the industry can continue to be supported and I will continue to work with my colleagues to identify practical actions to assist businesses.