Antiquated Easter Licensing Laws Need Urgent Reform Following Dail Decision Says HU CEO
26 January 2018
Commenting on today’s (Jan 25) vote by the Dáil to allow pubs, hotels and restaurants in the south of Ireland to sell alcohol on Good Friday, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, said it was further proof that Northern Ireland needs to follow suit and stop allowing more than £16 million a year to be lost to the economy through antiquated laws.
"Today’s decision by the Irish parliament to allow pubs, restaurants and hotels to sell alcohol on Good Friday leaves Northern Ireland even further behind in the race to attract tourists at Easter, essentially the start of the tourist season, and also needlessly curbs our hospitality sector’s ability to generate revenue at a key time of the year.
"It is estimated that the current restrictions on licensing laws in Northern Ireland for pubs, restaurants and hotels at Easter time costs £16 million. That’s £16 million that is used to pay wages and rates.
"Now, with this new law, we can be sure that the losses will far exceed that figure as tourists opt to stay south of the border over the Easter period and those from Northern Ireland who want to relax and enjoy the Easter holidays go to the Republic.
"As it stands the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland is restricted in selling alcohol across the long Easter weekend. That means we are restricted on Easter Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. In effect pubs, hotels and restaurants in Northern Ireland were much more affected by the licensing laws than the south ever was.
"This is a ridiculous position for our publicans, hoteliers and restauranteurs to find themselves in and today’s decision by the Dáil makes it even more so.
"The time is well past where the decision-makers responsible for licensing laws can sit on their hands and procrastinate. They must enact legislation which brings our Easter licensing laws into the modern era and which allows all those hard working people in the hospitality sector to be able to trade on a level playing-field with those in the south.
"Our tourism sector is already at a huge disadvantage with the south when it comes to tourism VAT rates. We need to make sure the gap is narrowed, not widened.
"We totally respect that Easter is an important period for many in Northern Ireland. But having a glass of wine with your lunch or a social pint of beer with your friends and family in a bar or restaurant is not disrespectful, nor does it take away from the importance of Easter.
"Allowing pubs and restaurants to sell alcohol over Easter is not about religion, if it were they would ban supermarkets selling alcohol at 8.00am on Good Friday morning. And does anyone really think less alcohol will be consumed? People just bulk buy in advance and drink at home, consuming more alcohol than they would over a normal weekend.
"Whether the Assembly is restored or whether some other form of decision making is implemented, we call on those with responsibility for this issue to act quickly to modernise our licensing laws.’’