Longer opening hours for pubs and nightclubs after Covid to be considered

Minister Helen McEntee to unveil plan which includes overhaul of licensing laws

Measures said to be part of Government efforts to support the night-time economy and preparing for life after Covid. Photograph: iStock

Measures said to be part of Government efforts to support the night-time economy and preparing for life after Covid. Photograph: iStock

 

Laws on opening hours for pubs and nightclubs will be modernised under proposals to be announced on Monday.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to unveil her Justice Plan 2021 which includes an overhaul of licensing laws. She said the reforms are aimed at helping such businesses — which have been among worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic — to “get back on their feet”.

Staggered and extended closing times are under consideration as is the introduction of new categories of licences.

Measures under consideration include a reform of trading laws for the sale of alcohol in pubs and off-licences. Sunday sales in pubs are currently limited to 12.30pm to 11pm and off-licences can only sell alcohol until 10pm.

Under the proposals in the Justice Plan the Sunday trading hours for both kinds of businesses could be brought in line with the longer hours allowed in the rest of the week.

The plans also include the possibility that a new annual nightclub permit would be created to allow for longer opening hours.

Financial viability

At present nightclubs and late bars must get a Special Exemption Order from the District Court on the pretence that a “special occasion” is taking place in the venue. This adds to costs for the business and the nightclub sector has argued that longer opening hours are essential for financial viability, to cater for lifestyle changes, and to better serve tourists and visitors.

Separately, amenity licences could be created for premises where the sale of alcohol is ancillary to the main business. Examples include sporting arenas, airports, trains, racecourses, cultural institutions and venues and theatres.

The measures under consideration are said to be part of Government efforts to support the night-time economy and about revitalising these businesses and preparing for life after Covid, when Ireland’s cultural and hospitality sectors can “flourish again”.

Ms McEntee said: “Our pub, hospitality and cultural sectors are an intrinsic part of our social fabric but have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with many not opening their doors for a year.

“As part of my plan to build a justice system that works for everyone, I want to help and support these businesses as they get back on their feet.”

She said as planning for how the economy and society will look after the pandemic “I also believe we need to broaden the range of cultural offerings available” at night.

Ms McEntee added: “We must make it easier for venues, galleries, exhibition spaces and ‘pop-up’ events to thrive and ensure we have a vibrant and safe night time economy.”