NI: Most significant change to liquor licensing laws since 1996 clears Assembly

NI: Most significant change to liquor licensing laws since 1996 clears Assembly

Legislation delivering the most comprehensive changes to liquor licensing laws in Northern Ireland since 1996 has been approved by MLAs.

The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill, which includes a number of reforms including greater flexibility for venues over opening times, was unanimously approved at final stage in Stormont yesterday.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I’m delighted to deliver the long-awaited modernisation of liquor licensing laws. Today sees the bill reach a milestone, completing its legislative passage through the Assembly.

“I want to acknowledge and thank the contribution of the many stakeholders that have been involved. This is a momentous day in delivering a more modern, flexible licensing system.”

The changes introduced in the bill include:

  • Pubs and Hotels can apply to open until 2am up to 104 nights per year;
  • Smaller pubs will be able to open to 1am up to 104 nights per year;
  • Drinking-up time will be increased to 1 hour;
  • All additional restrictions on opening hours over Easter weekend will be removed;
  • Opening hours on Sunday evenings will be the same as any other night;
  • There will be flexibility around opening hours for bars at major events;
  • A new category of licence will be created for local producers of craft beers, ciders and spirits;
  • Cinemas will be able to apply for a liquor licence and serve drink to customers watching a movie;
  • Sporting clubs will be able to use their grounds for functions up to 6 times per year;
  • Registered clubs will be able to open to 1am up to 104 nights per year;
  • Self-service of alcohol and sales by vending machines will be prohibited;
  • Restrictions will be placed on off-sales drinks promotions; and
  • Loyalty schemes will not be able to award or redeem points for the sale of alcoholic drinks.

The legislation was amended by the communities committee to include a review of the new law in three years’ time and every five years after that.

Mrs Hargey said: “This legislation has been a priority for me. I have ensured that we are mindful of the potential harmful impact of alcohol, with this bill including some very important measures to restrict the availability and promotion of alcohol as well as added protections for children and young people.

“I know from my engagement with the hospitality sector, that it is so important to them to have a more flexible and modern licensing system. This will be welcomed as they continue to recover from the impacts of Covid-19.”

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