PUBS and nightclubs in the Northern Ireland will be able to stay open longer after changes to liquor licensing laws come into effect today.
The changes mean pubs and clubs can apply to serve alcohol for an extra hour, until 2 am.
Drinking-up time will also be extended to one hour, meaning pubs and clubs can stay open to 3 am.
Easter drinking restrictions have also been removed in the first changes to the North’s licensing laws in 25 years.
Restrictions on late opening on Sundays have also been removed.
Some of the changes happening from today include:
Pubs and hotels can apply to open until 02:00 up to 104 nights per year
Smaller pubs will be able to open to 1 am up to 104 nights per year
Drinking-up time will be increased to one hour
All additional restrictions on opening hours over Easter weekend will be removed
Removal of restrictions on late opening on Sunday
Licensed race tracks will be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays
It is hoped the extended hours will see a boost for the hospitality sector in the lead up to the Christmas period.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said the changes will give “more flexibility” to pub and hotel licence holders “particularly in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year”.
She added that the increased drinking-up time – the period which customers have to finish their final drinks and leave the pub – will support a “more gradual dispersal of people from licensed premises”.
The chief executive of Hospitality Ulster said the new rules will give a much needed boost to the industry.
“We are still in restrictions so it will limit use of the new laws maybe for the next few months but there’s a real appetite for business,” said Colin Neill.
“They see the opportunities here and indeed, coming out of a period where we’ve done nothing but gather debt, this will give us an opportunity to actually make businesses more viable and bring down debt.”
Changes to the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill brings many of North of Ireland’s rules around alcohol sales in line with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
It marks a significant liberalisation of the North’s laws on alcohol that has been in the making for nine years.
A previous bill to change the North of Ireland’s licensing laws began its legislative passage in 2016.
But the Stormont Assembly collapsed in January 2017 amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Féin over the ‘cash for ash’ heating scandal.Tags: