Premises partaking in a ‘race to the bottom’ competition over alcohol prices in Bundoran were warned by Judge Kevin Kilrane to return to a “level playing field” or face the consequences come the annual licensing court in September.
A Donegal solicitor took to the stand in Ballyshannon District Court last Friday, June 1, to voice her concern as a parent over the pricing competition going on in Bundoran between bars.
Conor McEniff, owner of the Paris Nightclub, Bundoran, had a special exemption application before the court to allow the premises to stay open late last weekend (during the Rory Gallagher Festival held in Ballyshannon). Inspector David Kelly said the state were objecting to the exemption.
Inspector Kelly said the bar had advertised prices of drinks extraordinarily low on Facebook and the concern is that it may lead to “anti social behaviour.”
Solicitor Brian McMullin said his client was happy to work with the Gardai. He noted that he was not aware of any pricing restrictions.
Applicant Conor McEniff told the court that he is eleven years managing bars. He said “If we can’t price competitively, then we can’t pay wages.” He said his staff are trained and know when to stop serving, he also said he had security, doormen and CCTV.
Inspector Kelly put it to Mr McEniff that the Gardai had visited his home trying to speak to him about this application. Mr McEniff said he was unaware of that but said “the Gardai have my phone number when they are looking for CCTV.”
Solicitor Cathleen Dolan took the stand. She said she was speaking on behalf of concerned parents in Ballyshannon. She said parents are “outraged” by what is going on in Bundoran. She said Facebook was advertising “Vodka, Jägermeister, Sambuca, Tequilla, Red Bull and Lucozade and all Stiffy Shots including Cola Cube for 50c and bottles of Bud and Sex On the Beach Cocktail for only €1 ... Captain Morgans, Jack Daniels and Tia Maria only €2.”
She said it was “like giving smarties to children.”
Mrs Dolan asked “Do we have to wait until a teenager is lying on a slab at Sligo Hospital?” She said there was a “competition war” between Paris Night Club and Jumping Jacks.
Mrs Dolan said Jumping Jacks another club in Bundoran was having a “free bar” (with a €20 cover charge) on Saturday night.
She said parents want to support the Gardai against this. “Parents feel disempowered” she told the court. Ms Dolan said they were not looking to close down clubs but that special exemptions should not be granted unless stringent conditions are attached.
Following Mrs Dolan’s appeal, Mr McEniff said he would return to normal pricing. He told the court “after listening to Mrs Dolan I will go back to normal pricing, I hope the other McEniff will do the same.” Conor McEniff is a first cousin of Seanie McEniff who owns rival nightclub Jumping Jacks in Bundoran.
Judge Kilrane emphasised to the traders of Bundoran “this is not a race to the bottom.” He said that Conor McEniff’s decision to return to normal pricing gives a “level playing field.” He granted Conor McEniff the late bar special exemption.
He said all bars in the town will be under scrutiny for their behaviour and this will be used at the annual licensing court in September.
He acknowledged these are “desperate times” but told the applicant Conor McEniff the price war was “no good for you or your premises.”
Judge Kilrane also warned that if he found any “unfair competition going on” bars may not get exemptions again.
Judge Kilrane praised Mr McEniff who he said met the case “honourably.” He told him to take down the previous pricing notification on Facebook and wished him “a successful weekend.”