As part of A safe, fair and inclusive Ireland, contained in her Statement of Strategy 2021-2023 she aims to publish a new General Scheme of a Bill to modernise and update Ireland’s licensing laws to support the hospitality and cultural sectors and the Night-time Economy.
“Our cultural and hospitality sectors have been the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” stated the Minister in her introduction to the Plan, “Many of our cultural institutions and venues have not opened their doors in a year. These sectors will soon colour the days and nights of our lives once again and we will help them get back on their feet.
“Over the course of our Plan, we will modernise our licencing laws to support the development of the night time economy so our cities can take their place among the cultural capitals of the world.”
These sectors, she believes, will revive and she will introduce reforms to support the development and regulation of the night time economy including through modernised licensing laws.
This broad ambition is set out in the abovementioned document and her Department will engage with the work of the Night-time Economy Taskforce with a view to reviewing and modernising alcohol licensing.
As part of this her Department aims to, “conduct a full review of the regulations and policy framework governing our night-time culture at national and local level, including the staggering of trading hours for pubs, late bars, clubs, and restaurants” and to “modernise our licensing laws and application processes”.
Examining repeal of Licensing Acts
The proposed legislation would replace the present complex and outdated licensing laws.
This is likely to include bringing Sunday trading hours into line with the later hours permitted during the week for both the on- and off-trades and the introduction of an annual nightclub ‘permit’.
The new legislation will also allow theatres, galleries and other such cultural venues to expand their permitted retailing of alcohol as an ancillary to the main activity and the proposals will also look at venues such as sporting arenas, railway stations and racecourses.
“We must make it easier for venues, galleries, exhibition spaces and ‘pop-up’ events to thrive and ensure we have a vibrant and safe night time economy,” stated the Minister who’s understood to be examining the repeal of the Licensing Acts, the Registration of Clubs Acts and the 1935 Dancehall Acts.
Her plans were welcomed by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin who tweeted, “I welcome @HMcEntee‘s plans to reform alcohol selling hours
“New categories of alcohol licenses for cultural venues will help to develop our night-time economy
However the timing of this announcement was described as “utterly bizarre” in a VFI tweet on the subject.
“With the pub sector on its knees, with no plan for reopening the @DeptJusticeIRL drop this out of the sky. Sector needs support, not further uncertaintyLonger opening hours for pubs and nightclubs after Covid to be considered”.
The Minister for Justice hopes to have the new licensing legislation in place by next year.