Pubs of Ulster welcomes plans to extend opening hours in Northern Ireland

By John Harrington, M&C Report

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Northern ireland Alcoholic beverage United kingdom

Late-night plans: Opening hours to be extended in Northern Ireland
Late-night plans: Opening hours to be extended in Northern Ireland
A trade body for pubs in Northern Ireland has welcomed plans to extend opening hours in the province, although venues that do so would be charged an additional late-night levy.

Currently outlets are restricted to 11pm closing on Monday to Saturday, or 1am for venues that provide food or entertainment. A new consultation from the Northern Ireland Executive proposes extending opening to 1am or 2am under certain conditions, such as the sale of alcohol being ancillary to food or entertainment, restricted entry after a certain time, plus mandatory doorstaff and CCTV.
Venues would be subject to a late-night levy if they open later, mirroring action in England and Wales. This could be fixed fee - for example, £1,000 - or based on rateable value or a calculation of the additional demand on emergency services.
For small pubs that don’t provide food or entertainment, police would be able to authorise up to 20 licence extensions per year until 1am. Extending drinking up time from 30 minutes to one hour and granting later opening over Easter are also proposed.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said: “Pubs of Ulster welcomes the launch of the consultation on the reform of liquor licensing in Northern Ireland and hopes that it marks the start of positive change for the industry.
“Pubs of Ulster has been at the forefront of calls for reform of the current licensing laws and has lobbied on a range of issues over the last number of years.

"We are therefore greatly encouraged that many of the issues Pubs of Ulster has campaigned for, such as changes to opening hours over Easter and extending ‘drinking up’ time from 30 minutes to one hour, have been included in the consultation.
“As recognised by the minister, the licensed trade makes a significant contribution to the local economy and plays a vital role in communities throughout Northern Ireland.

"The consultation creates an opportunity to bring about some positive change in the industry by striking a balance between supporting business and creating a safe, regulated environment for people to enjoy. Not only that, it also offers the opportunity to modernise the current licensing laws and bring Northern Ireland’s night-time economy into the 21st century.
“Pubs of Ulster calls on all of those with an interest in the future of the industry – from publicans, business owners and customers - to take the opportunity to shape and improve the industry by responding to the consultation before it closes on 12 November.”
Under the consultation, pubs could be required to sign up to “approved” versions of what are currently voluntary codes of practice for operators. Extra licence conditions could be added for breaches. The proposal also mirrors action taken by the previous Labour Government in England and Wales.
The consultation also proposes relaxing laws around letting children into the bar area of pubs. Currently no access is allowed, but the plan is to let them in if “physical access to alcohol is securely prevented”.
Supermarkets are also targeted in the consultation. Proposals include increasing the separation between alcohol and non-alcohol areas in stores, and banning under-18s from areas where alcohol is displayed. Alcohol sales must also be made from dedicated checkouts under the plan, and alcohol promotions linked to the supermarket would be banned from within 200 metres of the premises.
The consultation says the Northern Ireland Assembly will soon commission research on the likely impact of minimum pricing in Northern Ireland.
Nelson McCausland, minister at the Department for Social Development, said: “Undertaking a further review of licensing legislation at this time provides an opportunity for my Department to introduce extra measures to help address some of the concerns surrounding alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland.
“It also enables me to respond to concerns surrounding irresponsible alcohol consumption, including the availability of alcohol and changes in drinking patterns. While tackling irresponsible drinking, I also feel it is important to recognise the contribution made to the local economy by the licensed trade, which has changed in recent years and makes a significant contribution to our tourism offering, as well as providing much needed employment.”

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