The Licensing Bill – Outdoor Stadia Update

June 21, 2016

The Licensing Bill has been introduced to the Assembly to make provision for the granting of licences to authorise the sale of intoxicating liquor at outdoor stadia. The Bill has since received Royal Assent and will come into force on 01 September 2016 as the Licensing Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.


Currently in Northern Ireland the licensing system is regulated by the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 (“1996 Order”) which, under Article 5 of the Order, allows for various types of premises to be licensed including public houses, off-licences, hotels, guest houses and restaurants. With the construction of the SSE Arena at the Odyssey in Belfast, a shortcoming in the 1996 Order was exposed given that an indoor arena fell outside the definition of a type of premises permitted to be licensed. As a result of both public and political will a resolution to this anomaly was reached and the Licensing (Indoor Arenas) (NI) Order 2004 was introduced. This Order defined indoor arenas so that they were permitted to fall under the category of premises in Article 5 of the 1996 Order. At the time of the introduction of the 1996 Order the requirement to licence indoor and outdoor stadia was not contemplated.

The Licensing Bill introduces a new type of licence only applicable to outdoor stadium as defined in the Bill. Outdoor stadium are defined as:

“premises –

  1. which are structurally adapted and used, or intended to be used, for the purpose of providing a venue primarily for a variety of outdoor sporting events and other activities,
  2. which include on or more areas for indoor events and activities, and
  3. which are designated in regulations as a stadium which the Department considers to be of importance to the whole of Northern Ireland.”

The stadia which are likely to qualify as being of “importance to the whole of Northern Ireland” are Kingspan Ulster Rugby grounds at Ravenhill, GAA Casement Park and the IFA Windsor Park. Currently, if these venues wish to sell alcohol at events they must make an application to the Court for an Occasional licence for each individual event. An Occasional licence is often granted close to the date of the event and also means that young people must vacate the premises by 9pm, which is often in advance of the end of the event. It is proposed that qualifying venues will hold licences that do not have the same restrictions with regard to young people but with the safeguard that the Court can impose any conditions on the licence that it considers appropriate.

It is intended that a licence will only authorise the sale of alcohol at outdoor stadia where the business carried on at the premises is of a type that is normally carried on there and that the sale of alcohol is ancillary to that business. It is not intended to authorise the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises and contravention of that restriction will be an offence. Alcohol can only be sold to people employed by or attending events or activities on the premises and it is also necessary to make other food and beverages available for purchase. It will also be possible for the venues to hold 6 functions per annum where the Court has granted an extension to their licensing hours until 1am on weekdays or midnight on Sundays. These functions must be organised by any body established for social, charitable or benevolent purposes or for further in the common interests of persons associated with any trade, profession, educational or cultural activity, game or sport.

Through the consultation conducted by the Member of the Assembly who introduced the Licensing Bill, it is clear that these changes were welcomed by the vast majority of those who responded. A number of responses also called for a reform of other liquor licensing laws in Northern Ireland.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. If you require any further advice in respect of liquor licensing, please contact Louise Coll, Solicitor, Cleaver Fulton Rankin (DD 028 9027 1311).