The General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill, which was published today, is poised to reform Ireland’s night-time economy, with nightclubs set to ‘have the option to remain open until 6am’, a move that would ‘bring Ireland in line with other European countries’, according to a statement on the Department of Justice website.
Pubs will be able to open from 10:30am to 12.30am seven days a week, with late bars permitted to open until 2.30am under the planned legislation. Off licences will have the option of opening from 10.30am to 10pm seven days a week.
From 909originals’ perspective, this is a seismic announcement in terms of putting Ireland’s night-time economy on a par with the rest of Europe, and credit should go to the groups that worked alongside the government to make this a reality, including Give Us The Night.
“Our nightlife does not compare favourably with that of other European countries when it should be as good as anywhere in Europe,” commented Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar.
“Rural pubs are closing, as have many nightclubs in urban areas, while the number of off-licences is increasing. It is not all about alcohol and should not be, but is part of the picture. It’s about cutting red tape and streamlining regulation.
“These reforms should be seen in the wider context of the government’s efforts to improve the cultural and entertainment offering in our town, cities and rural areas.”
My reforms to our outdated licensing laws will:
🔵 Modernise 200 year old laws – including our opening hours
🔵Ensure the sale of alcohol is tightly regulated
🔵Support and protect our pubs and industry
🔵Develop our night time culture
— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) October 25, 2022
Here’s a quick guide to some of the points made in today’s announcement.
When will the legislation commence?
The government has not committed to a start date for the new licensing laws to commence, however it is expected for some time next year.
What does the new legislation entail?
According to the Department of Justice, the new legislation replaces a ‘patchwork of 100 laws – some of which are over 200 years old’, which are in ‘urgent need’ of reform. Among the measures preposed as part of the legislation are:
- the creation of new annual permits for late bars and nightclubs, to replace the current Special Exemption Order system
- nightclubs and late night bars will need to adhere to strict requirements for these permits, subject to potential objections from fire authorities, the HSE, An Garda Síochána and local communities
- participating venues will be required to have CCTV on the premises and have security staff properly accredited with the Private Security Authority
- nightclubs must also have 20% of their floor allocated for dancing, and a live band or DJ must be playing
- all venues will also need to take measures to protect staff, patrons and performers from harassment, including sexual harassment
What nightclubs can apply for the 6am licence?
According to the government, the 6am licence is expected to be ‘largely availed of by bigger nightclubs and venues, mainly in cities‘, with the Department stating that it does not expect many nightclubs to apply.
Also of note is the requirement that in venues with a 6am licence, alcohol cannot be served after 5am, with dancing able to continue until closing time.
What sort of objections to such licences can be lodged?
The government is taking steps to streamline the current licensing system, with responsibility moving from the Circuit Court to the District Court. According to the Department, online renewal of licences will be possible if there are no objections.
The grounds under which potential objections could be lodged include: the number of similar premises in the same area; the unsuitability of the proposed premises for those living in the neighbourhood; and if premises are not operated in a manner which protects staff, patrons and performers from harassment.
Also the HSE, communities, local authorities and Gardaí can raise any necessary concerns around public safety and public health.
How can venues prepare for the shift to later licensing hours?
The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has announced an extension of the Night-Time Economy pilot initiative, under which a commitment has been given to provide sound-proofing grands to venues to help prepare for late opening.
Sound-proofing will ‘help to support the proposed liberalisation of opening hours for nightclubs and other venues operating in the night-time economy’, the Department said.
In addition, an additional package of supports has been announced that can help businesses and communities adjust to any potential changes to licensing laws. Nine pilot cities and towns have been selected to participate in this process, including Dublin City, Cork City, Limerick City, Galway City, Kilkenny, Drogheda, Sligo, Buncrana and Longford Town.
According to Minister Catherine Martin, “These new pilot towns and cities will now recruit new Night-Time Economy Advisors who will help drive and support a more sustainable night-time economy in their specific areas. They will work with businesses, communities, venues, residents and artists to create a more vibrant night-life for all and bring vitality back to our city and town centres in a safe and sustainable way.”
Martin added that the reform to the licensing structure is a “step in the right direction” that will create “more freedom and innovation” for the night-time economy sector, and bring Irish licensing legislation into the 21st century.