This is the first stage in the process to amend the law on the sale of alcoholic drinks in Northern Ireland and follows a public consultation on the issue in 2012.
Other proposals in the Bill include minor changes to Easter opening hours, the alignment of alcohol and entertainment licences in licensed premises allowed late opening and changes in relation to children on licensed premises and registered clubs.
“The changes I’m proposing strike the necessary balance between on the one hand, controlling the sale of alcoholic drinks and protecting the public interest and on the other hand ensuring local businesses in the hospitality sector can continue to provide a high level of service to their customers,” stated the NI Minister following the introduction of the Bill, adding that it’s likely to take eight months for the Bill to complete its passage through the Assembly. Any changes to the law are thus unlikely to take effect until the middle of next year.
However the new proposals seem to have been watered down from the draft Bill, written a few years ago according to Hospitality Ulster.
“Minister Givan and his officials must be commended for pushing this forward but we’re concerned about the current content of the draft Bill as it sits now,” commented Hospitality Ulster’s Chief Executive Colin Neill, “This version of the Bill which has now been brought forward is less impactful than the draft Bill which was written a number of years ago and does not reflect recent changes in consumer or industry trends.
“It has been nearly 30 years since we had an opportunity this good to make a real difference, so we need to make sure that we are future-proofing the law and ensuring that our sector, which is the backbone of the economy here in Northern Ireland, is supported.
“This Bill needs to be more responsive to the requirements of the industry” he explained, but at present there is a notable gap between what is being presented to the Assembly and what it needs to be to make sure that the legislation is effective in modernising the law here, he concluded, calling on the Minister to “close the gap”.