Bar & Drinks news

Progress welcomed on liquor licensing reform

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

The NI Executive has signed off on the proposed Liquor Licensing Bill by the Department for Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

Hospitality Ulster has warmly welcomed the progress, which when approved by the Assembly will bring about the biggest changes to the hospitality sector in a generation.

This Bill is now expected to enter the legislative process in the Assembly ahead of the Summer recess with progress expected in the Autumn.

“Building on the work of Minister Hargey, the progress of the Liquor Licensing Bill by the new Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín MLA 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,” said Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

“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.”

“It was not so long ago that a Bill to reform our outdated licensing laws was introduced to the last Assembly prior to its collapse. Nevertheless, the world has changed substantially in the intervening period and the latest proposals by the Minister are to be welcomed at this time. We are hopeful now that real and meaningful change can finally be implemented.”

“Over the last number of years we have engaged with the five main political parties who gave us assurances that they would support the modernisation of liquor licensing, giving businesses in the sector the means to run profitably and to allow them to reinvest. Whilst significant, the proposals do not include everything we asked for, it is crucial now that our MLAs listen to the industry and swiftly make the legislative changes that will transform the industry.

“Prior to coronavirus, despite being a £2bn a year industry and the backbone of the tourism offer, the growth potential of the hospitality sector was being curtailed by the outdated legislation. As we look to rebuild the hospitality sector here after coronavirus, it is imperative that businesses have all the tools necessary to thrive. Despite the undoubted challenges ahead, this updated legislation would be a welcome boost for hospitality businesses right across Northern Ireland.”

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