DEPARTMENT FOR COMMUNITIES MINISTER BACKS HOSPITALITY SECTOR
16 July 2020
The NI Executive has signed off on the proposed Liquor Licensing Bill by the Department for Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA.
Hospitality Ulster has warmly welcomed the progress, which when approved by the Assembly will bring about the biggest changes to the hospitality sector in a generation.
This Bill is now expected to enter the legislative process in the Assembly ahead of the Summer recess with progress expected in the Autumn.
Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said:
“Building on the work of Minister Hargey, the progress of the Liquor Licensing Bill by the new Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is the most significant change to licensing laws in a generation and is an important development at a time when the industry is facing significant challenges as a result of coronavirus. We have been calling for these proposed changes which include removing restrictions on Easter opening hours and additional permitted opening hours for some time.”
“This Bill can be a defining moment for the hospitality industry, bringing much of it into line with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and in Great Britain and making it more attractive to customers and visitors.”
“It was not so long ago that a Bill to reform our outdated licensing laws was introduced to the last Assembly prior to its collapse. Nevertheless, the world has changed substantially in the intervening period and the latest proposals by the Minister are to be welcomed at this time. We are hopeful now that real and meaningful change can finally be implemented.”
“Over the last number of years we have engaged with the five main political parties who gave us assurances that they would support the modernisation of liquor licensing, giving businesses in the sector the means to run profitably and to allow them to reinvest. Whilst significant, the proposals do not include everything we asked for, it is crucial now that our MLA’s listen to the industry and swiftly make the legislative changes that will transform the industry.”
“Prior to coronavirus, despite being a £2billion a year industry and the backbone of the tourism offer, the growth potential of the hospitality sector was being curtailed by the outdated legislation. As we look to rebuild the hospitality sector here after Coronavirus, it is imperative that businesses have all the tools necessary to thrive. Despite the undoubted challenges ahead, this updated legislation would be a welcome boost for hospitality businesses right across Northern Ireland.”
THE KEY CHANGES:
EASTER OPENING HOURS: Under the current law late opening (from 11.00pm – 1.00am in pubs and other premises which provide food/entertainment) on the Thursday and Saturday before Easter Sunday must end at midnight. On-sales premises are only permitted to sell alcoholic drinks between 5.00pm – 11.00pm on Good Friday.
Changing social habits and the growing importance of the tourism industry for Northern Ireland has led to calls for changes to Easter opening hours. It is proposed to remove all restrictions over the Easter weekend.
ADDITIONAL PERMITTED HOURS / SALES UNTIL 2AM: Under the current law, the normal opening hours for licensed premises are 11.30am – 11.00pm on weekdays, 12.30pm – 10.00pm on Sunday or Christmas Day and 5.00pm – 11pm on Good Friday.
Certain licensed premises may apply to a court for late opening hours to allow them to open to 1.00am on weekdays and 12.00am on Sundays with 30 minutes drinking up time. A court must be satisfied that conditions have been met, such as, that food or entertainment will continue to be provided during late opening.
In recognition of the importance of the hospitality and tourism sectors to the local economy, it is proposed that courts may grant an additional 1 hour late opening up to 104 times per year in certain licensed premises, under certain conditions.
DRINKING UP TIME: The current law provides that alcoholic drinks may be consumed for a period of 30 minutes after the end of the permitted hours for selling alcohol, commonly known as ‘drinking-up’ time.
It is proposed to extend the current drinking up time in all licensed premises and private members’ clubs from 30 minutes to 1 hour to discourage customers drinking too quickly and to allow more gradual departure especially from large venues.
To read the proposed changes in full CLICK HERE