Legislation to reform late night licensing laws expected within weeks

Representatives of the night time economy have campaigned for longer opening hours for pubs and nightclubs

Proposed legislation to overhaul Ireland’s licensing laws governing pubs, clubs and other late night venues is expected in the coming weeks, the Minister for Justice has said.

The general scheme of the legislation, a long awaited reform of licensing laws, is due to be brought to Cabinet shortly after the Budget.

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.

Speaking on Saturday, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the proposed legislation would “consolidate” various outdated laws which make up Ireland’s licensing regime.

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The planned legislation would seek to provide what campaigners have said is a long overdue overhaul of current licensing laws, which currently include the Public Dance Halls Act 1935 and the Habitual Drunkards Act of 1879.

Referring to the Public Dance Halls Act, Ms McEntee said “the fact they’re still even law at this stage is fairly mad”.

“So we’ll be repealing that as well as other pieces of legislation and consolidating that, which will all be done in one Bill,” she said.

The Minister was speaking at a panel talk at Night and Day music festival, in Clonalis House, Co Roscommon.

“It’s really about how do we consolidate what is a lot of complex laws and outdated laws, but also to make it easier for people to get into the industry, to make it easier for newcomers, young people, and to just create a better environment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.

Ms McEntee said she was conscious that “a lot of the venues are disappearing and are not coming back”.

Reform of the licensing regime had been discussed for 15 years, with Ms McEntee stating she would be bringing the proposed legislation to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Speaking on an earlier panel, Minister for Culture Catherine Martin welcomed the coming revision of the licensing regime, as part of wider reforms to revitalise the night time economy her department had pushed in recent years.

R Kitt, a DJ and campaigner with the Give Us the Night group, said the current outdated licensing restricted young people’s access to cultural spaces. This had “knock on effects” such as a lack of social opportunities for younger people, which he said was “really damaging” in the long run.

There had been “always a sense of frustration” for artists or those involved in the night time economy over the previous lack of reforms, he told the panel.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times