Plans to introduce Continental-style café-bars in the Irish Republic have been scuppered by what justice minister Michael McDowell branded "vested interests".
The café-bars were to have been the central feature of new liquor legislation and would have seen food and drink licences sold together available through the courts for €
McDowell said the new laws were intended "to change Ireland's drinking culture", which has seen its young people top the European binge-drinking league, and the country rate second only to Luxembourg in per capita alcohol consumption.
But the powerful publican lobby, which saw the proposals as a threat, claimed business had already been hit by the smoking ban and launched a campaign of opposition. It was supported by 40 government backbenchers - some of them pub owners - who said that opening more drinks outlets would aggravate the abuse problem.
The minister has now been forced to abandon the idea, blaming "vested interests" for frustrating it. Instead he plans to liberalise the licensing system for restaurants, enabling them to serve the same range of drinks as pubs, and over the same hours.
Measures to combat binge-drinking already introduced include reducing pub opening times, outlawing "happy hours", and banning children from all licensed premises after 9pm, even when accompanied by parents.