Have your say before Friday 3rd May – Department for Communities launched public consultation to vary permitted hours of sale of alcohol at “special events”

April 26, 2019

The Department for Communities, responsible for the policy and legislation in relation to the sale and supply of alcohol, has recently issued a consultation document to receive the view of the public in respect of the sale and supply of alcohol at special events in Northern Ireland. The proposed policy and legislative amendments intend to make changes to the permitted hours allowing the sale and supply of alcohol to support the tourism and hospitality sectors in Northern Ireland. The public consultation has been launched in light of the 148th Open Golf Championship due to take place at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in July 2019 and, should the proposed amendments to our licensing laws be passed, it will mean that future events which attract significant public interest will be able to benefit from extended permitted hours to sell and supply alcohol.

Under the Licensing (NI) Order 1996, the sale and supply of alcohol in Norther Ireland is subject to certain restrictions for different types of premises. Alcohol can only be sold between 11.30am to 11pm on Monday to Saturday and from 12.30pm to 10pm on Sunday. There is provision in the Order for these hours to be extended to 1am on Monday to Saturday and to midnight on Sunday.

Many event organisers find the permitted hours under the current licensing regime in Northern Ireland very restrictive which is having a negative impact on visitor experience and our tourism and hospitality industry. The Department has stated that “a change in the law before the [148thOpen Golf Championship] takes place will contribute to the success of the event and improve the prospects of this event and others coming to Northern Ireland in the near future.” The change in legislation will enable the Department to categorise certain events as “special events” allowing the permitted hours of the sale and supply of alcohol to be varied. In introducing such amendments to the legislation, the Department will have regard to public health and safety, and will be able to limit special events to certain premises and may impose certain conditions if necessary.

Public responses to the consultation will be used as evidence in the decision-making process to the potential legislative changes. There are four questions in the consultation document with the aim of establishing public opinion to the proposed change of law. Should you wish to have your opinion considered, your response must be submitted to the Department by Friday 3rd May 2019.

The consultation document can be accessed and responded to online at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/consultations. It can also be submitted via email to social.policy@communities-ni.gov.uk and in writing to:
Special Events Consultation, Department for Communities, Social Policy Unit, Level 8 Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7E

This article has been produced for general information purposes. If you would like further advice in relation to liquor licensing laws in Northern Ireland, please contact Jane McManus, Solicitor.

Solicitor, Jane McManus; and Trainee Solicitor, Lydia Heffron, Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors.