A major overhaul of obsolete licensing laws could result in pubs, bars, nightclubs and off-licenses opening longer and making theaters, galleries and other cultural establishments easier to sell alcohol.
Justice Secretary Helen McEntee plans new laws this year to replace the state’s complex and outdated licensing laws to revitalize the night economy once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
It comes when Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that he had no plans to reopen any pubs or restaurants before the end of June, sparking a renewed warning from the hospitality industry that businesses are on the verge of “financial ruin and collapse”.
Ms. McEntee wants to make it easier for theaters, galleries and exhibition spaces to obtain alcohol licenses so that the range of nightlife and cultural offers can be expanded.
For premises where the sale of alcohol was seen as a side effect of the main activity, such as For example, these cultural venues, as well as sports venues, airports, trains and racetracks, could create new licenses for amenities.
Ms. McEntee is considering repealing licensing laws, club registration laws, and the Dancehall Acts of 1935, and reforming alcohol sales laws.
The measures examined include staggering and extended closing times for bars, pubs and nightclubs.
Currently, venues that open later require special exemption orders from the District Court as they have a special occasion.
However, a new proposal could result in these venues receiving annual nightclub approval.
Ms. McEntee will also be investigating longer opening hours as part of this process, as the nightclub sector, which has been fully closed since last March, has argued that extended opening hours are essential for lifestyle changes as well as for tourists and visitors.
Reforms of trading hours for pubs and bars as well as off-licenses are also being considered. This could mean, for example, balancing Sunday trading on and off sales with the rest of the week.
The reforms should also modernize and streamline the application process for alcohol licenses.
The District Court would take responsibility for new Circuit Court license applications.
The proposed revision of licensing laws is part of Ms. McEntee’s 2021 Justice Plan, which will be released this week.
It contains more than 200 measures and reforms as well as timetables for their implementation.
Ms. McEntee said: “Our pub, hospitality and cultural sectors are an integral part of our social fabric, but have been hit hardest by the pandemic as many have not opened 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 companies when they get back on their feet. But as we plan how our economy and society will deal with the pandemic, I want to also.” believe that we have to expand the range of cultural offers in the night bar.
“We need to make venues, galleries, showrooms and pop-up events easy to thrive and make sure we have a lively and safe night economy.”
Mr Martin told RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta yesterday that concerns about new variants of the virus and the effects vaccines have on them would mean a slow reopening.
“We don’t foresee this until pubs etc reopen until mid-summer. Health officials say we will stick with it until the end of April, then think about the situation and make decisions about the months ahead,” he said.
Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said the comments “bring restaurants and the hospitality industry closer to financial ruin and breakdown”.
He called on the government to “clearly state what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated” in order to fully reopen the hospitality sector.