Northern Ireland’s Liquor Licensing Reform
Northern Ireland’s Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has recently finalised a Draft Bill proposing some reforms to Northern Ireland’s licensing legislation.
The key aspects of the changes are said to be:
- Pubs and Hotels may apply to open until 2am up to 104 nights per year, smaller pubs being able to open to 1am up to 104 nights per year and registered clubs will be able to open to 1am up to 104 nights per year;
- An increase in drinking-up time to 1 hour;
- A removal of restrictions on Easter Weekend opening hours;
- Sunday opening hours will be the same as any other night;
- Flexibility around opening hours for bars at major events;
- Creation of a new category of licence for local producers of craft beers, ciders and spirits;
- Cinemas will be able to apply for a liquor licence allowing operators to serve alcohol to customers;
- Sporting clubs will be able to use their grounds for functions up to 6 times per year;
- A prohibition on self-service of alcohol and sales by vending machines;
- Restrictions on off-sales drinks promotions; and
- Loyalty schemes will not be able to award or redeem points for the sale of alcoholic drinks.
This Draft Bill is currently proceeding through Royal Assent and it is envisaged that the majority of the new provisions are to become law in October 2021, with the remaining provision to require further consultation. The October date will allow the hospitality industry to take advantage of the extended hours (if approved) intime for the festive period.
Furthermore, a full statutory review of licensing laws in Northern Ireland is believed to be undertaken by the Department for Communities, within the next 12 months.
Social Democratic and Labour Party assembly member, (MLA) Matthew O'Toole stated that this review is the "first step toward reforming the system here [Northern Ireland] so that it works for everyone".