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New Northern Ireland drinking laws bring industry ‘into 2021’ – all you need to know

Changed for first time in 25 years

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You can now enjoy a longer night out, as well as forgetting about Easter weekend restrictions. Pic: Getty Images.

You can now enjoy a longer night out, as well as forgetting about Easter weekend restrictions. Pic: Getty Images.

Getty Images

You can now enjoy a longer night out, as well as forgetting about Easter weekend restrictions. Pic: Getty Images.

Northern Ireland’s new drinking laws came into force on Friday as pubs and nightclubs will be able to stay open for longer - but what can you expect?

For the first time in 25 years, Northern Ireland’s licensing laws have been changed and pub-goers can take up the option of a later night.

Changes to the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill brings many of the rules here in line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

What has changed?

  • Pubs and hotels can stay open for an extra hour until 2am up to 104 nights a year.
  • Drinking-up time has also been extended for an extra hour, meaning venues can remain open to 3am.
  • Smaller pubs can remain open to 1am up to 104 nights a year.
  • Additional restrictions over the Easter weekend will be removed.
  • Sunday’s late opening restrictions are gone.
  • Licensed race tracks will be permitted to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said the changes to the laws brings them “into 2021”.

“It was long overdue because they haven't been changed in 25 years but it was also to look at additional protections that we can build in so this is a measured set of proposals and I am glad I have been able to bring through these major reforms,” she said.

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Minister Hargey explained that venues can apply to the courts for late openings from Friday and that will take a “number of weeks” to be processed.

She added that pub and club owners will have the option to apply for any number of the 104 late openings in one single application.

Minister Hargey also encouraged early engagement with the courts and to give local communities early notice of late nights.

Commenting on Thursday’s next Executive meeting, she said they will look at Covid-19 winter planning and all outstanding restrictions within the hospitality sector.

“We will come out of that meeting with decisions based on medical and scientific advice,” said Minister Hargey.


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