The reform is a key recommendation of the Night-Time Economy Taskforce Report and the engagement and contribution of those involved in that work would be most welcome, she says.
The consultation will look at how best to update the existing laws governing the sale and regulation of alcohol in Ireland in line with commitments made in Justice Plan 2021.
The Minister acknowledges that the hospitality industry has been the hardest hit by the pandemic with restrictions still in place for many businesses.
However, she’s also firmly of the view that planning for life after the pandemic requires continuing work to reform Ireland’s “antiquated” licensing laws.
She intends to enact “ambitious licensing reform” by the end of 2022 and is now seeking these views as work on this reform accelerates in the Department of Justice.
The reforms will cover licensing application systems, categories of licence, public health, nightclubs, late bars and Special Exemption Orders, trading hours, extinguishment requirements and online/delivery sales of alcohol.
“Our pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have experienced huge challenges as we continue to grapple with Covid and the devastating effect it has had on our society and economy,” she said at the launch of the consultation, “I know many of these businesses are still struggling but it’s hugely important that we prepare for life after the pandemic.
“I’m committed to enacting alcohol licensing laws that reflect the changing expectations and lifestyles of 21st Century Ireland.
“We must take a range of views into account and the interests of public health, consumers and communities will be central to these reforms which will be developed with a supportive approach to businesses.
“Any changes in alcohol licensing laws will be balanced with the need for regulation in the public interest – in particular public health and public order.”
“I want to hear from stakeholders and members of the public on a range of issues including nightclub and late bar opening hours, trading hours – and whether we need greater regulation of online and delivery sales.
“We’ve also seen many innovations during the pandemic such as the extension of outdoor dining and I would like to hear the public views on how we can build on these changes.
“All responses from the public will be reviewed by my Department to help consider how best to reform our licensing laws.
“We will also consider any relevant evidence that members of the public may wish to submit in relation to the impact of current or proposed licensing laws.
“Overall, the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill will update and streamline existing alcohol licensing laws into a single Act, making it accessible and user-friendly for the licensed trade, courts, Gardaí and the public.”
Members of the public may also list any other aspects of alcohol licensing laws that they believe should be changed or added. Any relevant evidence in support of individual viewpoints in relation to the impact of current or proposed licensing laws may also be submitted.
Legislation governing the sale, supply and consumption of intoxicating alcohol in licensed premises is set out in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018 and in the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008.
The objective of the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill is to repeal the Licensing Acts and the Registration of Clubs Acts and to replace them with updated and streamlined provisions more suited to the 21st Century.
The Department also intends to repeal the Public Dance Hall Act 1935.
This consultation will be open until the close of business on January the 21st 2022. Interested individuals, groups and organisations may complete the online survey.
Full details on the consultation can be found at https://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/open-consultation-sale-of-alcohol
In due course, the Department will publish on its website a summary of the survey results and may also publish a copy of any responses/submissions/materials received. The Department may also receive requests for disclosure of such responses/submissions/materials under the Freedom of Information Act 2014.
Licensing reform will be a priority for the the Licensed Vintners Association in 2022 as is likely to be the case with other representative organisations such as the Vintners Federation of Ireland.
Over the coming weeks the VFI will undertake a comprehensive engagement process with its members to ascertain their views on the Sale of Alcohol Bill.
“The first stage of what will become the Sale of Alcohol Act is for the VFI at national and county level to make submissions to the Department of Justice by 21st January,” it stated, “We will also be encouraging individual publicans to make their views known.
“At this early point in proceedings we would not wish to pre-empt our members’ views but clearly there will be high levels of engagement on issues such as trading hours and protection of the seven-day licence.”