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Government bans free champagne for dress-shopping bridal parties

Government regulations introduced this year will make the tradition of offering a bride-to-be a free glass of champagne as she gets fitted for her dress a criminal offence. The regulations have been branded “extremely petty” and “joyless.”

The Government has advised businesses that this regulation, which prohibits the “sale or supply of an alcohol product at a reduced price or free of charge”,  means that “the purchase of a service…may not result in the offer an alcohol product free of charge” and that it “is not permitted” for businesses to offer their customers any alcohol, even a single glass of wine.

The guidelines will put an immediate end to practices such as: a bride-to-be and her bridesmaids being given a free glass of champagne when dress shopping; barbers and hairdressers offering you a beer or glass of wine with your haircut; a complimentary drink whilst staying in a hotel; and any other case in which a customer might be offered a drink whilst they are inside the premises of a business.

The regulations were brought in during January, but it is only now, with lockdown restrictions likely to ease, and the country likely to begin opening up shortly, that consumers are likely to realise how wide-ranging these new restrictions  are.

Ross McCarthy, chairman of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), told Gript that “there is no doubt that alcohol abuse has adverse outcomes for many people and many families” but that “specific aspects of the proposed legislation come across as patronizing and extremely petty.”

McCarthy said that banning a woman getting “a full head of highlights”, a procedure “which takes hours”, from deciding to have a glass of Prosecco seemed to be “an extreme case of overreach.” He classed the ban on bridal parties being given a glass of champagne during dress fittings, “a major life event”, as “particularly joyless.”

McCarthy added that “there is far too much social activism emanating at the moment from the Kildate Street bubble with insufficient opportunity for debating and scrutiny.”

Anti-alcohol NGOs have long lobbied the government, whilst being nearly entirely funded by the government, to dramatically tighten alcohol restrictions inside Ireland,  arguing that such moves are necessary to combat Ireland’s “problematic” relationship with alcohol. Critics of this approach have pointed out that Ireland’s alcohol consumption decreased by 6.5% last year and have asked how classifying giving a glass of champagne to a bridal party as a criminal offence is combatting alcohol misuse.

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