The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee is presenting a general scheme for the Sale of Alcohol Bill to the cabinet today which proposes to introduce the biggest overhaul of licensing laws that we have ever seen in this State. As it stands liquor licensing legislation in Ireland can be described as piecemeal and archaic with some of the legislation that still applies today going back as far as the 1830’s. The proposed new legislation will repeal the Licensing Acts 1833-2010, the Registration of Clubs Act and Public Dancehall Act 1935. This older legislation will be replaced by one single piece of streamlined legislation which will be more in line with our current economy and the needs of society.
One of the main proposed changes will be the overhaul of current trading hours for publicans. The new standard trading hours for pubs will be from 10:30 am until 12:30 am seven days a week. This is a significant change from the current permitted hours which are 10:30 am until 11:30 pm Monday to Thursday and 12:30 pm until 11:00 pm on Sundays. In addition to this late bars can apply for a permit to stay open until 2:30 am without the necessity of applying for individual special exemption orders for each occasion that they wish to remain open late.
Perhaps the most drastic change to be brought about by the new legislation will be the introduction of an option for nightclubs to apply for a permit to serve alcohol until 5 am with one-hour drinking up time thereafter. Late opening times for nightclubs are the norm for many European Countries. It is expected that to avail of such licences there will be strict conditions to be adhered to and a Court application will be required where proof will have to be adduced that there is CCTV in operation on the premises and security staff with private security authority accreditation.
It is also noteworthy that the new bill proposes to move all licensing applications to the District Court. At present, applications for certain licences to include publican’s licences require an application to the Circuit Court. A move away from Circuit Court applications will result in reduced fees for applicants. In an effort to make the publican’s trade more accessible, the requirement to extinguish a current licence as part of an application for a new 7-day licence will be abolished after a three-year transition period. Again, a move that is to be greatly welcomed by those in the publicans trade.
If approved by the cabinet, it is likely that these changes will come into operation in 2023.