Plans To Relax NI Drinking Laws Progressing

A government department has launched a public consultation on a plan to relax Northern Ireland's drinking laws ahead of this summer's Open Championship.

The Department for Communities (DfC) would designate certain occasions as 'special events', at which alcohol could be sold outside the normal licensing hours.

It comes ahead of the 148th golfing championship, set to take place at Royal Portrush Golf Club from 18-21 July.

The DfC believes a relax in laws would "contribute to the success of the event and improve the prospects of this event and others coming to Northern Ireland in the near future".

The consultation, running until Friday 03 May 2019, seeks public opinions on the proposal which would also allow food & drink to be sold off premises.

The Department is aware that the organisers of a number of prestigious events believe that restrictions around permitted hours for the sale of alcoholic drinks, and the sale of such drinks for consumption at home, have a negative impact on their events. 
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The number of 'special events' is expected to be very small, with only limited business premises benefitting from such a designation.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Communities Spokesperson, Robbie Butler MLA, has said that whilst he welcomes the announcement on some possible reforms to liquor licensing laws, it is a sham that it took the imminent 148th Open at Royal Portrush to force action on it.

The Lagan Valley MLA said reforms are essential, not only to update existing legislation and reflect the needs of a modern market and the increasing popularity of micro-breweries, but also to ensure that everything possible is done to tackle the high levels of alcohol addiction across Northern Ireland. 

"Only through genuine partnership working will the problems of alcohol misuse be effectively tackled. After years of delay and false dawns, when successive DUP Ministers either failed or refused to legislate, this announcement should come as some limited relief to a hospitality sector that had long ran out of patience.

"It's a sham however that it took the imminent 148th Open at Royal Portrush, and the inevitable embarrassment that would have been felt on an international stage, to force Northern Ireland's hand on this."


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