Video: Derry lobbyist Janice Gault says moves to liberalise licensing for The Open 'quite strange' in light of 'Formal' and wedding difficulties
Derry hotel lobbyist, Janice Gault, has said moves to liberalise licensing for The Open seem “quite strange” in light of difficulties hoteliers have had establishing a common-sense legal footing for formals and weddings.
Ms. Gault, Chief Executive of the NI Hotels Federation, made the remarks during a briefing of the NI Affairs Committee’s tourism inquiry.
Speaking as the Department for Communities considered responses to its consultation on allowing drink to be sold more flexibly in Portrush in July, she said the facilitation of the tournament contrasted with the inflexible approach she met with when trying to get a change in the law to make it easier for her members to host ‘formals’ and weddings.
The hoteliers’ advocate said the North’s strict licensing laws meant most weddings were effectively illegal because it was against the law to have children present after 9.30 p.m. Equally, hotels have lost out on the massive winter ‘formal’ trade.
“The main issue for us is around the inability to stage formals. There was an agreement where you could have people between the age of 16 and 18 at a ‘formal’ and they were allowed to be there and drink wasn’t sold.
"There was a generally accepted code of practice. A case was taken, a judicial review was done and now it’s completely against the law after 9.30 p.m. which really means that most weddings are breaking the law because there are children at weddings after 9.30 p.m.
"All that has happened with the ‘formals’ is that the ‘formals’ are being staged in hotels at 5.30 p.m. and then people are leaving the hotel at 9.30. p.m. and they are going to other premises,” she explained.
Ms. Gault said her main objection around the moves to fast-track a more liberal licensing regime for The Open was that no-one knows what a ‘special event’ is.
“We’ve had a number of food and drink shows where the dispensing of alcohol has been banned; the off sales of alcohol have been banned, not allowed to happen due to licensing but, from our understanding, we are unsure whether those would sit in a special event category or not.
"There was no framework given. Is it just going to be golfing events? Is it going to be sporting events? Nobody has any idea. So from that point of view the consultation is a bit strange.
"Also coupled with the fact that we’ve been told nothing can be changed because we don’t have a minister. It’s quite strange that all of a sudden this legislation appears to be able to be changed when we went specifically about the ‘formals’ and were told nothing could be changed.”
Janice Gault,Chief Executive of the NI Hotels Federation, addressing the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.