The Minister will publish a new General Scheme of a Bill to reform licensing in Ireland this year.
It’s acknowledged that Ireland’s licensing laws are outdated, overly complex and in need of modernisation and reform as these laws are underpinned by a 19th Century model.
The modernisation of the licensing laws are but one of over 200 actions contained in Minister McEntee’s Justice Plan 2021. The reforms envisage a broader range of licences and greater flexibility as is the case in other countries where they contribute to varied Night-time economies in international cities.
“By making it easier for cultural venues such as theatres, galleries and exhibition spaces to get licences, we can broaden the range of night-time and cultural offerings,” believes the Minister.
According to the Department of Justice, the reforms include:
- staggered and extended closing times
- introducing new categories of licences
- amenity licences could be created for premises where the sale of alcohol is ancillary and subsidiary to the main activity. This could include sporting arenas, airports, trains, racecourses, cultural institutions and venues such as theatres etc
- an annual nightclub permit could be created for operators who already hold an on-licence in respect of the premises
- at present, nightclubs and late bars require a Special Exemption Order for the District Court on the pretence that a ‘special occasion’ is taking place at the venue in question
- the nightclub sector has argued that longer opening hours are essential for financial viability, to cater for lifestyle changes and to better serve tourists and visitors. Opening hours will therefore be examined in this context
- catering licences could be required by, for example, companies who cater for weddings and service other events such as ‘pop up’ events
- reformed trading hours for on- and off-sales of alcohol to reflect the modern needs of businesses and consumers.
- For example, this could mean bringing Sunday trading for on- and off-sales into line with the rest of the week.
- Modernise and streamline the application process for licences to sell alcohol.
It’s also proposed that the District Court would take responsibility for new on-licence applications from the Circuit Court to create a system which would be accessible, transparent and better-placed to balance the rights of local communities and applicants.