Public consultation on the potential reform of Ireland’s alcohol licensing laws opened on Thursday.
The consultation is taking place to inform the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill, which will repeal older laws relating to the sale of alcohol and the governing of pubs and nightclubs.
Previously, representatives of the night time economy have called for longer opening hours for pubs and nightclubs, along with other measures to increase the vibrancy of Ireland’s nightlife.
However, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, said the reforms would not just be about longer drinking hours and later opening times, and it won’t be a “free for all”.
She said she recognises that the hospitality industry has been the 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 an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Ms McEntee said that reform of Ireland’s antiquated licensing laws is needed, in order to help these businesses survive after the pandemic.
She has signalled that she intends to reform the law by the end of 2022, and she is now seeking the views of stakeholders and the wider public.
In an interview on RTÉ News at One, Ms McEntee said that the law needs to be streamlined and modernised.
“The fact of the matter is that this sector are dealing with law that is outdated. Law that dates back to 1833.
“We have the Dancehalls Act of 1935 that is being referred to, and I think we would all agree that the dance halls of the 30s are a lot different to the night time economy of now.”
She said late bars run into particular problems with the current legislation. “So for example, some late bars have to apply and pretend essentially that they are having a late event or special event, and we know that event is every night they are open, because that is the type of licence they have to apply under because it is 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 department will be looking at adding an extra layer of governance around online drinking, so 12 or 13 year olds are not able to order alcohol online.
She added that she is very conscious of the public health element to any changes.
“People assume it is longer drinking hours and later opening hours. That is not the case. But we do of course have to take in to account the concerns that arise with potential changes either to opening hours or to people accessing licences.
“There is a perception that we are talking about every place opening until 6am and that is not the case. It will all be regulated. It won’t be a free for all.”
The public consultation will be open until 21st January 2022.
Interested individuals, groups and organisations can complete the online survey to have their say.
More details can be found at: justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/open-consultation-sale-of-alcohol