THE DEPARTMENT of Justice has opened public consultation for the modernisation of alcohol licensing laws, which the Minister hopes will "reflect the changing expectations and lifestyles of 21st century Ireland."
Minister Helen McEntee launched the consultation on Thursday 25 November, which will look at how best to update the existing laws governing the sale and regulation of alcohol in Ireland, in line with commitments made in Justice Plan 2021.
Currently, pubs can only serve alcohol between 10.30am and 11.30pm Monday-Thursday, until 12.30am on Saturdays, and between 12.30pm to 11.00pm on Sundays.
From Monday to Saturday, off-licences and supermarkets can only sell alcohol from 10.30am to 10.00pm, and from 12.30pm to 10.00pm on Sundays and St Patrick's Day.
A Special Exemption Order can also be sought, which allows the licence holder to serve alcoholic drinks outside of ordinary opening hours. The latest time that alcohol can be served for drinking on such a premises is 2:30am.
The Minister acknowledged that the hospitality industry has been the hardest hit by the pandemic with restrictions still in place for many businesses.
However, she is firmly of the view that planning for life after the pandemic requires continuing work to reform Ireland’s antiquated licensing laws, and reform is expected by the end of 2022.
Launching the consultation, Minister McEntee said “pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have experienced huge challenges as we continue to grapple with Covid and the devastating effect it has had on our society and economy.
“We must take a range of views into account and the interests of public health, consumers and communities will be central to these reforms, which will be developed with a supportive approach to businesses."
She said any changes in alcohol licensing laws will be balanced with the need for regulation in the public interest - in particular public health and public order.
“I want to hear from stakeholders and members of the public on a range of issues including nightclub and late bar opening hours, trading hours – and whether we need greater regulation of online and delivery sales.
“We have also seen many innovations during the pandemic, such as the extension of outdoor dining and I would like to hear the public views on how we can build on these changes.
“All responses from the public will be reviewed by my Department to help consider how best to reform our licensing laws."
“Overall, the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill will update and streamline existing alcohol licensing laws into a single Act, making it accessible and user-friendly for the licensed trade, courts, Gardaí and the public.”
This consultation will be open until close of business on January 21, 2022.