The MLAs will vote Tuesday on plans to reform licensing laws that could allow pubs to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. on weekends.

The new proposals would also lift restrictions on licensing laws over Easter.

Alcohol can currently only be served on Good Friday between 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., while bars have to close at midnight on Easter Thursday and Easter Saturday.

The vote takes place two years after the Ministry of Communities announced a consultation process.

Under the plans, certain premises can apply for late licenses until 2 a.m. 104 times per year.

The proposals would also increase the current drinking time from 30 minutes to an hour to discourage customers from drinking too quickly and allow for a more gradual exit.

The number of late opening opportunities in small pubs could be increased to 85 per year, while a new category of premises would be introduced for breweries and distilleries.

Adolescents under the age of 18 could be permitted to stay in the bar area of ​​licensed premises and registered clubs after 9:00 p.m., provided that alcoholic beverages are not available.

DUP vice-chair and community committee chair Paula Bradley said the goal is to ensure a balanced approach.

She said: “The new law must support our hospitality and tourism industries, especially as we emerge from the pandemic.

“This also includes measures to promote responsible alcohol consumption, such as a new restriction on alcohol advertising.

“We have included another amendment that will impose a legal obligation on the Ministry of Health to set a minimum price per unit within three years.”

However, TUV leader Jim Allister said he would oppose some clauses because of the public health implications.

“These clauses deal with extra hours, which research shows that they put increased pressure on police and health services,” said Mr Allister.

“Coupled with the extended drinking time of 60 minutes which is now the longest in the UK, you get off work until 3am, which is the last thing our streets and A&E teams need.”

Local Minister Deirdre Hargey said the bill contained a balanced package of reforms for the sector.

“In supporting the hospitality industry, it is my duty to consider the negative effects that harmful alcohol use can have on individuals and entire communities.

“This bill therefore also contains the appropriate guarantees to ensure that people are protected from alcohol-related harm.”

Pedro Donald of the Sunflower Pub in Belfast is one of the supporters of changes to the “outdated” licensing laws.

“Easter opening hours have always been an issue,” said Donald.

“It is usually a busy time in terms of tourism, so it should be a rush weekend.

“This change would be very positive in pulling us into the 21st century.

“We are now in a very different world than when these laws were created.”

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said it was time to update club licensing and registration while “providing fair market access for local producers.”

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