Pubs in Northern Ireland will be able to serve as late as 2am and restrictions around Easter opening will end amid new government licensing changes here.
The new Bill being brought forward by Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín will include changes in relation to late opening hours for pubs, Easter trading arrangements, advertising in supermarkets, and special events.
And part of the changes will include bars and nightclubs being able to serve as late as 2am – an extra hour on the current legisation.
They will also bring Easter trading hours in line with normal opening.
But the amendments will also include new restrictions on advertising of alcoholic drinks and introduce a statutory code of practice on responsible retailing.
“I believe these proposals represent a balanced package of measures aimed at tackling alcohol misuse and promoting responsible consumption, while providing vital support for the hospitality industry,” Ms Ní Chuilín said.
“This support is needed now more than ever as the industry begins its recovery from COVID-19.
“The changes will also enable local drinks producers to sell their products directly to the public in limited circumstances, make changes to the law affecting registered private clubs and allow changes to permitted hours at major events, such as last year’s Open golf championship. The amendments will also include new restrictions on advertising of alcoholic drinks and introduce a statutory code of practice on responsible retailing.”
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “Building on the work of Minister Hargey, the progress of the Liquor Licensing Bill by the new Communities Minister Carál Ni Cuillin is the most significant change to licensing laws in a generation and is an important development at a time when the industry is facing significant challenges as a result of coronavirus. We have been calling for these proposed changes which include removing restrictions on Easter opening hours and additional permitted opening hours for some time.”
“This Bill can be a defining moment for the hospitality industry, bringing much of it into line with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and in Great Britain and making it more attractive to customers and visitors.”
The extension of the extra hour of serving has been described as an “occasional additional late opening hour for certain licensed premises”.