NI: Outdoor pubs which flout guidelines could face licensing problems next year

NI: Outdoor pubs which flout guidelines could face licensing problems next year

Christopher Bullock

Outdoor pubs and restaurants which fail to take public health guidelines seriously following the reopening of the hospitality sector this Friday could lose their licences next year, a Belfast lawyer has warned.

Christopher Bullock, an associate at O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors, has highlighted that next year is a crucial one for hospitality venues as over 1,800 liquor licences across Northern Ireland will go up for renewal.

Council officials and PSNI officers have been liaising with publicans in Belfast to ensure they are abiding by the stringent guidelines set out by the Northern Ireland Executive ahead of the easing of restrictions on Friday 30 April.

Mr Bullock said: “Covid-19 may well have permanently changed how we go to the pub or restaurant and while operators are keen to get back up and running this weekend, they must not adversely impact the long-term viability of their licence by taking unnecessary risks when re-opening.

“Under the current restrictions only those venues with adequate and suitable outdoor space are permitted to reopen and while outlets will want to maximise this opportunity after months without trading, selling alcohol in unlicensed beer gardens or outdoor areas or carrying out alterations to the premises without court consent could jeopardise their licence in the long term.”

He added: “The process and timing of re-opening has been particularly difficult on the trade with little information forthcoming and businesses have had to adapt quickly to what the latest guidelines mean.

“I would urge all statutory authorities to work closely with and support the trade to ensure they can open in line with regulations. This will help to protect licence renewals which are due in 2022 and also support the long-term vibrancy of an industry that is crucial to the Northern Ireland economy.”

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