Iconic conference centre can serve drink on Good Friday
DELEGATES attending conferences at the new National Conference Centre in Dublin's docklands will be allowed to drink alcohol on Good Friday.
And all through the year they will be able to stay drinking until 2am, under new laws enacted by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday.
The minister passed an emergency law to grant the centre an alcohol licence in a bid to ensure it will be able to sell alcohol when it opens in September.
Planning for the 2,000-seater venue, which has a 400 sq m stage that will serve as the facility's central hub, began in 2007.
Under a public private partnership arrangement, Spencer Dock Convention Centre Dublin Ltd, a Treasury Holdings company, was brought in to build, operate and maintain the centre for 25 years. It will then revert to the State.
In return, the State agreed to pay the company an annual charge, amounting to €380m over 25 years.
More than 236,000 delegate days have already been booked, including events such as the International Conference of Emergency Medicine.
One of the largest events will be the International Bar Association conference -- with 4,500 legal delegates expected to attend in October 2012.
The granting of a liquor licence for the premises was supposed to be included in the Criminal Justice Bill, which is due to be enacted in June.
But this plan was dropped when concerns were raised that the bill would be rushed through to ensure the licence was in place for the grand opening of the centre.
Mr Ahern said yesterday that those attending a "convention event", such as a conference or seminar, would be able to obtain alcohol an hour before the event started and one hour after it concluded.
He said if the event included a banquet or stage show the sale of alcohol could continue until 2am.
Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan queried if alcohol could be served on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
"It has been raised if the prohibition on Good Friday, Christmas Day or Sunday applies to the conference," Mr Ahern said.
"If a conference is being held, and it's a conference event, it could conceivably be open on Good Friday.
"But if it's a non-conference event, it wouldn't because the normal rules would apply."