Proposed plans to restrict the hours of off-licences will not deter parties and large social gatherings, but will only further damage the small business sector, industry experts have warned.
It emerged last week that the Government is considering plans to significantly reduce opening hours for retailers selling alcohol, in a bid to clamp down on house parties.
However, the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) and the Licensed Vintners Association both slammed the proposals this weekend.
“It would be counterproductive and ineffective. It will cause congestion in off- licences,” said Liam Reid, chair of DIGI.
“If this happens, it will restrict further the only income left to the hospitality sector. It will hit businesses struggling in a real way.
“We already have restrictions in place for house gatherings, they should be enforced in the first place.”
Mr Reid added that if these plans are rolled out, they could drive consumers over the Border to buy alcohol.
“With proposed restrictions like this, we run the risk of driving people over the Border,” he said, adding that this was not an ideal scenario “given the Covid rates in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Reid pointed to the possibility of a rise in cross-Border alcohol smuggling, as well as the production of counterfeit alcohol by criminals as a consequence of the plans.
“It could create a Christmas bonanza for that sector. Quite simply, this won’t work.”