Public consultation opens on proposed changes to liquor licensing laws
The public consultation on potential reform of Ireland’s liquor licensing laws opened on Thursday.
The consultation is taking place to inform the Sale of Alcohol Bill, which will repeal old laws relating to the sale of alcohol and the governance of pubs and nightclubs.
Previously, representatives of the nightlife economy have called for longer opening hours for pubs and nightclubs, as well as other measures to increase the vibrancy of Irish nightlife.
However, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the reforms would not just be about longer drinking hours and later opening hours, and that it would not be a “free for all”.
She said she recognizes the hospitality industry has been hardest hit by the pandemic and restrictions are still in place for many businesses.
Last week, the government announced a midnight curfew on bars and nightclubs, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Ms McEntee said reform of Ireland’s outdated licensing laws is needed to help these businesses survive after the pandemic.
She has signaled that she intends to reform the law by the end of 2022, and she is now seeking views from stakeholders and the general public.
In an interview on RTÉ News at One, Ms McEntee said the law needed to be streamlined and modernised.
“The fact is that this sector is dealing with an outdated law. Law dating from 1833.
“We have the Dancehalls Act of 1935 that is referred to, and I think we would all agree that the dance halls of the 1930s are very different from the nightlife economy of today.”
She said late bars have particular problems with current legislation. “So, for example, some late bars have to apply and basically pretend they’re having a late night event or a special event, and we know that event happens every night they’re open, because that’s the type of license that they have to apply because it’s the only one that exists.
Ms McEntee added that Dublin is one of the few capitals in the world where everything closes at the same time, and people don’t have many options.
She also said the ministry would consider adding an extra layer of governance around online drinking, so that 12- and 13-year-olds cannot order alcohol online.
She added that she is very aware of the public health element in any change.
“People assume that the drinking hours are longer and the opening hours later. This is not the case. But we must of course take into account the concerns that arise with potential changes either to opening hours or to people accessing licenses.
“There is a perception that we are talking about all places being open until 6am and that is not the case. Everything will be regulated. It will not be free for everyone.
The public consultation will be open until January 21, 2022.
Interested individuals, groups and organizations can complete the online survey to provide feedback.
More details can be found at: justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/open-consultation-sale-of-alcohol