Earlier this year the NI Executive announced plans to reform the NI liquor licensing laws. In July the Department described these changes as a balanced package of measures aimed at tackling alcohol misuse, promoting responsible consumption and providing support for the hospitality industry and tourism.
On Monday 19 October 2020 the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill was finally published as it was introduced in the Assembly by Finance Minister Conor Murphy on behalf of Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.
The Bill had its first stage and this marks the start of the legislative process to bring about these important and long awaited changes to NI liquor licensing laws.
The Bill proposes a number of changes to NI’s liquor licensing laws. Among the key proposed changes contained in the Bill as published are
The current law is silent on the advertising of alcoholic drinks by supermarkets and off sales premises. The proposed restrictions contained in this bill will:
The bill gives the Department power to approve new industry led Codes of practice and failure to adhere to these codes may impact on renewal applications or new applications for licence holders.
The introduction of this bill and the long awaited proposed modernisation of liquor licensing legislation in Northern Ireland will provide a welcome boost to the hospitality industry at a time when it is experiencing a four week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.
In welcoming the introduction of the Bill Communities minister Carál Ní Chuilín stated
“This Bill will now move through the legislative process and be scrutinised by Assembly colleagues, but I hope it gives those in the industry assurance that we are working to modernise the sector. I appreciate that we are currently working our way through the Covid crisis but I am confident that the Bill will provide a more flexible licensing framework that will undoubtedly assist the sector to rebuild following the Covid crisis, when our society can operate under more normal circumstances.
“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.”
The Bill will have its Second Stage in the Assembly on 3 November 2020. Subject to any amendments it is likely the bill will become law early in the New Year and hopefully allow the sector to experience a much more positive 2021.
TLT has extensive experience in licensing matters in Northern Ireland and in the jurisdictions of England & Wales and Scotland.
If you would like to discuss your requirements, please get in touch with Kevin Murphy or Eoin Devlin at our Belfast office.
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