Last week we got our Bonder’s license, the first on the Island in about 50 years. We have reopened the once prevalent bonding trade here in Ireland, great stuff. In the throes of that I actually didn’t notice the Craft Drinks Bill until I read this post from Peter Mulryan at Blackwater Distillery. This is a bill that would allow small drinks companies like mine to sell to tourists who visit our facility, amongst other things. I climbed on the band wagon, and started shouting and lobbying. Here is why.
I am (very depressingly) really familiar with a piece of Irish Legislation which was written in the 1840’s The Intoxicating Liquor Act. It is an act that has been half arsed amended a few times. This was written kind of just before THE FAMINE and before the Irish Whiskey Industry began its cataclysmic decline. It still rules how all of us new entrants into the resurgent Irish Whiskey category do business today and it is woefully out of date.
This is why it still has a provision in there for a BOG LICENSE. This is a license to sell Liquor at retail IN A BOG. The cost of a bog license is 500 euros as opposed to 57,000 or 80,000 euros when compared to a publicans or an off-license. The latter two are normally what you are required to get should you wish tourists to taste or buy your whiskey on your premises. As you can imagine, the former is appealing to me.
I am opening to tourists on a small scale next Summer and I want to be able to actually GIVE THEM A TASTE OR SELL THEM A BOTTLE after they have toured our whiskey maturation facility, heard all about our story and plans and spent a good hour here. it is my intention to only take small groups of 12 or so at a time. It would take me 5 or 10 summer seasons to recoup 57,000-80,000 euros. County Clare tourism is totally seasonal and lasts for 3 months a year. Not good business sense to throw working capital away like that on a license and not something I intend to waste a lot of time trying to convince my investors about….
So, I am applying for a bog license which is still a valid piece of licensing here in Ireland. I started the process a few weeks ago before the Craft Drinks Bill came into being. We have a bog on site, I figure I will just put my retail outlet down there and sell directly to my visitors from there.
WHY THE HELL NOT? IF LEGISLATION IS FROM 1840 THEN I’LL ACT LIKE ITS 1840.
What is a bog license??? Well, I have enquired and none have been issued in living memory but I know this much, it dates from pre-famine days when this country had a much larger population. Certainly here in County Clare, when turf cutting season came around everyone decamped to the bog pretty regularly in the summer to cut and tend to turf (peat if you are American) Turf is used as fuel to this day here. Even in my own youth I spent many the day in the Bog. People would usually go to the bog when main work was done and in the summer months it is light here late into the evening like until 11pm, so the pubs would be empty. So, local publicans would sometimes set up in the bog to ensure everyone was well libated and the brought the mountain to Mohammod so to speak.
A Bog license is still a totally valid license, it is on the Revenue Commission Website and I intend to pursue it ALL THE WAY TO THE END. Or perhaps, just perhaps….the Craft Drinks Bill could actually be pushed through the Dail and amend this particular law from the 1840’s allowing small businesses like mine to sell alcohol to enthusiastic whiskey lovers who take the time and effort to visit us during their vacation to Ireland. I have now been to see my local TD Pat Breen and made clear I would like the bill to be passed as it would create jobs here in County Clare on my family farm and on the three other craft distilleries and breweries planned or in operation in the county.
If the Government opposes the bill, I will drive on with acquiring the bog license because after all its still 1840 in some quarters right????? Please join me in Lobbying your local TD or mine . We need this BIll.