NI launches consultation document on changes to alcohol regulation

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland recently launched a consultation document with the aim of changing the law regulating the sale and supply of alcohol in NI. As both the NI and RoI Governments have agreed to work in tandem on harmonising legislation in this area, it’s recommendations are likely to have relevance for those serving alcohol on both sides of the border.

Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Minister McCausland stated, “Undertaking a further review of licensing legislation at this time provides an opportunity for my Department to introduce extra measures to help address some of the concerns surrounding alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland”.

However he also stated, “While tackling irresponsible drinking, I also feel it is important to recognise the contribution made to the local economy by the licensed trade which has changed in recent years and makes a significant contribution to our tourism offering as well as providing much-needed employment”.

The consultation, published late last July, remains open until the 12th November.

Research conducted by the NI’s Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) found that 64 per cent of respondents who’d consumed alcohol in the week prior to the survey had drunk at home, whereas just 20 per cent had drunk in a pub.

The document makes a number of proposals in relation to further restricting the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences such as increasing the degree of structural separation between alcohol and non-alcohol products on sale by means of a wall or solid door and banning minors completely from such areas where they’re presently allowed in if accompanied by an adult.

It’s also proposed to introduce alcohol-only checkouts at supermarkets and to ban alcohol advertising (and the display of branded non-alcoholic products such as football jerseys and mugs bearing such advertising) outside the alcohol sales area including an area extending 200 metres from the premises boundary.

Tightening up the legislation on home deliveries of alcohol has also been put forward in the NI document.
The on-trade too has come under scrutiny with proposals to increase the availability of late opening hours provided certain conditions are met including the introduction of a late-night levy.

An extension of drinking-up time from half-an-hour to one hour forms another part of the proposals as does an aligning of the separately-issued alcohol and entertainment licences in NI.

The consultation seeks views on to what extent the person providing the entertainment must be present and performing in the licensed premises in question and to what extent the law should be changed to ensure that entertainment provided in restaurants is ancillary to the business of providing food.

It also seeks to clarify current legislation to prevent the sale of alcohol via Pour Your Own Pint tables and via vending machines.

Consultation has also been sought on whether it should be permissible to remove previously-purchased alcohol for consumption off the premises after normal opening hours eg following extended drinking-up time.

An easing up of advertising restrictions for private member clubs is also mooted in the document as is an extension of time during which a minor can be in a sporting club to 11pm in Summer.

An impact assessment of the likely effects of the introduction of minimum pricing in NI is also being undertaken by the Departments of Social Development and Health, Social Services and Public Safety. The NI Minister has noted that competition from off-trade retailers (including supermarkets) and their selling of large volumes of low price alcohol have had a significant impact on on-trade sales.

Access the Consultation Document at Proposed Changes to the Law Regulating the Sale and Supply of Alcohol in Northern Ireland.


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