Stormont discussing plans for liquor licensing reform

Stormont discussing plans for liquor licensing reform

A Bill aimed at reforming Northern Ireland’s much-maligned liquor licensing rules comes before Stormont for discussion today (Tuesday).

The proposed new rules will deliver an extra hour of trade to bars and nightclubs almost every Friday and Saturday evening of the year and finally remove all restrictions on Easter trading across the country.

Despite the continuing closure of the hospitality trade here due to surging rates of Covid-19 infection, the new legislation, if it is passed into law, would modernise much of Northern Ireland’s antiquated and unpopular liquor licensing regulation.

Supermarkets will also become subject to new curbs on in-store advertising and the previously voluntary code of practice around drinks promotions would be replaced by a set of legal requirements.

Communities Minister, Caral Ni Chuilin said that the Bill struck the right balance between support for the hospitality sector and local communities by ensuring that the sale of alcohol was controlled.

And welcoming the new Bill, SDLP MLA, Mark H Durkan, said: ‘The local hospitality industry supports thousands of jobs, contributes £1.2bn every year to our economy and is a key cornerstone of our growing tourism industry.’

However, he also expressed disappointment that the proposed legislation would not offer any help to local craft brewers who re currently forbidden from offering their own products for sale on their own premises. A similar, colonial-era law in the Republic was done away with last year.

‘It is incredible that these businesses, which are leading the charge on sustainability and innovation in the sector, are still prevented from selling their products on site,’ he added. ‘We are tying one hand behind their backs.’