Northern Ireland Liquor Licensing Laws Set to Change

23 July 2014


Following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including the drinks industry, health bodies and the general public in 2012, Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, has announced that he intends to change the law on the sale and supply of alcohol in Northern Ireland.

In recent years there have been calls to bring Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales where the laws are less stringent and although the Minister has rejected such an approach, there are some proposed changes which have been welcomed by those in the licensing industry.

The changes being brought forward include:

  • A new type of ‘Occasional Licence’ to allow licensed premises to apply for an extension until 2.00am up to 12 times per year;
  • An increase by 30 minutes in ‘drinking up’ time;
  • Restrictions on advertising alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences;
  • Modest changes to Easter opening hours for pubs with normal hours applying on the Thursday and Saturday before Easter;
  • An alignment of the Entertainments and Liquor Licensing systems to make enforcement easier for the Police;
  • The introduction of voluntary industry-led codes of practice which will be formally approved by the Department of Social Development (DSD); and
  • Minor changes to the law affecting private member clubs.

In announcing the proposed changes Minister McCausland stated; “The sale and supply of alcohol has to be regulated in a way that recognises its potential negative impacts and I believe that liquor licensing plays a key role in setting the environment in which alcohol is consumed”. 

He added, “While I am keen to ensure that licensing laws assist in supporting the hospitality industry and tourism it must be in a way that does not add to the difficulties we already have with alcohol as a society.”

The changes will be included in a Bill which will be taken through the legislative process in the Northern Ireland Assembly before becoming Law, at which stage it will become an Act.

To read the DSD’s full publication click here

For more information on this article or any other aspect of liquor licensing please contact Helen Cosgrove.