Conflicting views emerge over planned pub licensing laws overhaul

Pubs issue warning over too much deregulation of licensing laws while nighttime economy campaigners warn of too many restrictions

Plans to abolish the requirement for new pubs to get licences from existing ones before trading will lead to a wave of closures in rural Ireland, an Oireachtas committee hearing has heard.

While the opening day on Tuesday of a planned two-day session of the Justice Committee to discuss the Government’s plan for an overhaul of Ireland’s licensing laws was largely positive, concerns were raised including “exorbitant” licensing costs for night clubs and the removal of obstacles to the opening of pubs.

Under the planned legislation, pubs and nightclubs will be able to apply for extended opening hours annually rather than applying for special exemption orders for each night they want to open late. Trading hours will be extended to allow nightclubs stay open until 6am and pubs allowed to remain open until 12.30am seven days a week.

The so-called extinguishment requirement, which means new or re-opening pubs have to obtain the licence of a pub which have closed, is also to be removed under the proposed legislation.


The umbrella groups representing the licensed trade welcomed the new legislation - but said if there was too much de-regulation, pubs in rural Ireland would be forced out of business.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) noted that around 1,800 pubs have closed in Ireland since 2005 “confirming a total over-supply of pubs and serious viability challenges”.

Its chief executive, Donall O’Keefe said the “combination of too many pubs, particularly in rural Ireland, together with falling demand, means that overall pub numbers will continue to fall, irrespective of any changes in the extinguishment requirement”.

He said “any new licences sought will be in areas of higher demand – cities, provincial towns, tourist locations” and said getting rid of the “extinguishment requirement will not achieve the [Minister for Justice Helen McEntee’s] objective of enhancing rural pub liability and will prove to be a failed policy initiative.”

Wine bars and restaurants

The Vintners Federation of Ireland, meanwhile, called for restrictions to be imposed on wine bars and said the granting of late licences to restaurants should be linked to multiple factors including table service as well as the service of substantial meals.

It voiced concerns around the “potential operation of cultural amenity licences and the possibility they could be used as “back-door entry” and it echoed the LVA’s disquiet at the scrapping of the extinguishment requirement.

Sunil Sharpe from the Give Us The Night campaign to modernise nightlife in Ireland, called for “the current exorbitant licensing costs for all late-night venues to disappear” and said venues should “simply pay a yearly court administration fee for the newly created late permits, no more than the European standard, which ranges from €500-€2,500 per year”.

He was supporting of the removal of extinguishment, which he said was “designed to enable easier access to the market”, but said that “for a full three years after the legislation is enacted, new nightclub operators will still have to purchase a seven-day Publican’s Licence on the open market.” This license is currently selling for circa €60,000, according to Mr Sharpe.

He pointed to the setup costs of a nightclub, the limited trading hours and escalating running costs, and said that “adding the hefty cost of a pub licence will be enough to dissuade new entrants to the market.

“It should not be assumed that new operators, especially younger ones, have access to an endless flow of money or come from generational wealth. New nightclub operators should be encouraged into the market and exempt from any extinguishment process.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor