Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland hospitality sector calls for fairness in licensing law changes

Concerns: Colin Neill
Concerns: Colin Neill
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The head of Hospitality NI has called on the Government to play fair with local pub and restaurant owners as it plans to change licensing laws in time for this July's Open Golf Championship in Portrush.

The trade body's chief executive Colin Neill met with Secretary of State Karen Bradley and shadow NI Secretary Tony Lloyd at Westminster yesterday to ask them to urgently intervene to update Northern Ireland's outdated licensing laws.

The Department for Communities launched a consultation last month on relaxing restrictions on the sale of alcohol at 'special events', but the process has caused "huge concern" in the local hospitality industry, said Mr Neill.

That consultation is due to end on May 3, but Mr Neill said it has left his members "flabbergasted" that a small tweak in the laws can be made so swiftly, largely to benefit the company running hospitality services when The Open arrives in July.

"Whilst we welcome the fact that The Open is coming to Northern Ireland, we need to look at the whole picture and not just pander to the company running the event because they want to sell more drink outside of the current permitted hours," said Mr Neill.

"We made it very clear that this small change does absolutely nothing for local pubs and restaurants who will be missing out on the revenue. Once The Open packs up, the hospitality sector will be left to operate with the same outdated laws that it has struggled with for years.

"Just because the big boys roll into town and complain, our civil servants are bending over backwards to rush through legislation even though there is an entire bill sitting on the shelf ready to go that will address many if not all of these issues. They need to listen to the ratepaying businesses here.

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"If this consultation progresses in isolation of wider reform it will be regarded as favouritism towards companies outside Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph