Pubs will be allowed to remain open until 12.30am seven days a week, while nightclubs will be allowed to open until 6am, under a major new overhaul of licensing laws due to be considered by Cabinet on Tuesday.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will bring the general scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill to Cabinet, which will detail longer opening hours for nightclubs and standardised hours for bars.
Under the plans, opening hours for pubs would be standardised across the week, with pubs having the option of opening from 10.30am to 12.30am, seven days a week. Sunday sales in pubs are currently limited from 12.30pm to 11pm, while opening times from Monday to Thursday are generally from 10.30am to 11.30pm.
Opening hours for late bars will remain at up to 2.30am and a new late-bar permit will be required, subject to strict conditions.
Ms McEntee is expected to tell Cabinet that in order to bring Ireland in line with other European countries, nightclubs will have the option to remain open until 6am – with the requirement that alcohol cannot be served after 5am, and with dancing permitted to continue until closing time. This will be subject to strict conditions, it is understood.
The conditions for a late bar and nightclub permit include applying to the courts for such permits, and a requirement to have CCTV on the premises and have security staff properly accredited with the Private Security Authority. The new laws are expected to be enacted by next year.
A source said it was envisaged the nightclub permits would largely be availed of by bigger nightclubs and venues, mainly in cities, and not be availed of by many nightclubs.
Representatives of the night-time economy have campaigned for longer opening hours for pubs and nightclubs, as part of a reform of licensing laws, to improve the nightlife scene.
It is expected Ms McEntee will tell Cabinet that the sale of alcohol cannot be treated like the sale of any other good. She is expected to tell Cabinet that the country must retain restrictions on its sale and on who is permitted to sell it, and to whom.
She will tell Ministers that Ireland will maintain a restrictive licensing system in general, with licences only granted by the courts – with objections allowed from fire authorities, local authorities, the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána and local communities.
The planned legislation would seek to provide what campaigners have said is a long-overdue overhaul of licensing laws, which currently include the Public Dance Halls Act 1935 and the Habitual Drunkards Act of 1879. Reform of the licensing regime has been discussed for 15 years.
Speaking previously about the plans, Ms McEntee said: “It’s really about how do we consolidate what is a lot of complex laws and outdated laws, but also to make it easier for people to get into the industry, to make it easier for newcomers, young people, and to just create a better environment for our artists and our venues as well,” she said.