Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced the first changes from new legislation to reform liquor licensing laws.
These mainly involve the extension of opening and drinking-up times, which will be a welcome boost for the hospitality sector in the lead up to the festive season and include the following relaxations:
Pubs and Hotels can apply to open until 2.00am up to 104 nights per year;
Smaller pubs will be able to open to 1.00am up to 104 nights per year;
Drinking-up time will be increased to one hour;
All additional restrictions on opening hours over Easter weekend will be removed;
Removal of restrictions on late opening on Sunday;
Licensed race tracks will be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays; and
Registered clubs will be able to open to 1.00am up to 104 nights per year.
The remainder of the The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2021, which the Minister successfully brought through the Assembly earlier this year, will be commenced in phases over the next few years.
The Minister said: “I was pleased to be able to deliver this new legislation. The next step is to ensure it is successfully brought in to operation. From 1 October, the first changes of the major reforms I have delivered will become a reality.
“This first phase will see restrictions on Easter opening being lifted meaning Easter weekend next year will be the same as any other weekend throughout the year.
“It includes pub and hotel licence holders being able to apply for later opening, providing them with more flexibility, particularly in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year.
“It will also see drinking-up time increased from 30 minutes to one hour which will support a more gradual dispersal of people from licensed premises.”
The Minister continued: “My Department will continue to engage with stakeholders to bring the remaining provisions of this reform into operation. Most of the remaining provisions will come in to effect in April 2022 with some others requiring a slightly longer period.”
Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said: “This marks a significant step forward for the hospitality industry here as the benefits of the modernisation of our outdated liquor licensing legislation begins to be realised.”
“I would like to commend Minister Hargey for delivering these successful legislative changes which will enhance the offer of our local hospitality sector. The entire industry has been struggling over the last eighteen months and this will provide a confidence boost, and will bode well for the future of the hospitality offer as we plan ahead.”
“The updated Liquor Licensing legislation will see a well-balanced approach to how the hospitality sector trades, addressing the perennial question marks around the likes of permitted Easter opening times and drinking up time and will provide greater opportunity to attract more tourists and visitors to our shores as we compete in the international market place. We look forward to seeing the positive impacts of these changes.”