26 June 2014

Pubs of Ulster have today given a cautious welcome to the Minister’s proposals to bring a Bill forward on liquor licensing reform in Northern Ireland. 

Social Development officials presented to the Assembly’s Social Development Committee this morning on the department’s plans to reform Northern Ireland’s liquor licensing laws after a lengthy consultation period in which 2,500 responses were received. The proposals will go before the Executive next week and it is hoped work will immediately begin on drafting a Bill over the summer.


The proposals brought forward by the Minister include an extension of drinking up time by thirty minutes, allowing pubs to sell alcohol until 2am on 12 occasions through the year, and allowing smaller pubs to open late on 85 occasions throughout the year which is a welcome extension on the 20 nights that smaller pubs currently have.


The proposals also allow for a change in Easter opening hours so that on the Thursday and Saturday of Easter week, pubs may operate as normal days under licensing law. Entertainment licenses will also be brought into line with liquor licenses so that entertainment must end when the sale of alcohol ends.


Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said:


“Pubs of Ulster has been calling for the reform of licensing laws for a number of years and we welcome the fact that following a long consultation process, we now have a set of proposals to go forward with. It is evident that the Minister has listened to our industry and we thank him for hearing our concerns and bringing forward these proposals.


“We are glad to see proposals on the extension of drinking up time which will be extended by thirty minutes and which will help with dispersing crowds at the end of busy nights.


“We also welcome the proposed extension of opening hours to 2am for bars in non-residential areas, but feel that it should be allowed on at least 104 nights a year to include all weekends, rather than the currently proposed 12 nights a year.


“The proposals to allow normal operating hours on the Thursday and Saturday of Easter week are also a welcome move and licensees acknowledge and respect how important that time of year is, in particular Good Friday. We do feel that this has fallen a bit short however and would like to see this proposal extended to allow for a normalization of opening hours on Easter Sunday too.


“Pubs of Ulster will continue to press the Minister and his department for additional reforms during the legislative process and will seek to ensure that this momentum continues so that the reforms are enshrined in legislation before the end of the current Assembly mandate.”