Liquor licensing back on Assembly agenda

Liquor licensing back on Assembly agenda

A Bill aimed at modernising Northern Ireland’s liquor licensing laws is set to come before the Assembly today (October 20).

The new legislation, which had been set to be discussed prior to the collapse of the Assembly in January 2017, brings about a series of longed-for changes laws around the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Among an extensive series of proposed new measures will be a scrapping of the restrictions around Easter trading in licensed premises; additional opening hours for certain types of vnue, including small pubs and restrictions on the advertising of alcohol by supermarkets and off-licences.

A full explanation of the changes can be found here.

Hospitality Ulster, which has long campaigned for modernisation of NI’s archaic drinks legislation, has welcomed the introduction of the changes and expressed a hope that there will be ‘swift passage’ for the Bill to the committee stages.

‘After years of lobbying for a much needed change, this Bill is even more timely and crucial due to the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector,’ Colin Neill said yesterday. ‘Despite the pain currently being faced by hospitality businesses, we are hopeful that this new legislation will have a positive impact on trading next Easter and beyond.”

‘Prior to Covid-19, despite contributing £2bn a year to the Northern Ireland economy and [being] the backbone of the tourism offer, the growth potential of the hospitality sector was being curtailed by the outdated legislation. As we look to bounce back and rebuild the hospitality sector here, it is imperative that businesses have all the tools necessary to thrive. Despite the undoubted challenges ahead, this Bill will be a welcome boost for hospitality businesses right across Northern Ireland.’

Introducing the Bill to the Assembly on behalf of Caral Ni Chuilin, who is self-isolating, Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, said that he hoped that it would give the trade reassurance that the Executive was focused on modernisation of the industry.

‘This Bill has attempted to strike a balance between recognising the role licensed premises have in their local community as places to socialise and as providers of employment, alongside ensuring protections are in place to help tackle the harms that alcohol can cause in our society,’ he added.