We have been talking about the proposed changes in licensing laws in Ireland for a number of years now, and today October 25th 2022 marks a big turning point in a campaign largely spearheaded by Give Us The Night, as reforms of the licensing laws are finally on the table and being brought to Cabinet and we can see what’s on offer, and what Irish nightlife and the night-time economy might look like in 2023.
The topline of the reforms announced by Justice Minister Helen McEntee as the general scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill are:
- Pubs will be allowed to remain open until 12.30am seven days a week.
- Nightclubs will be allowed to open until 6am.
Of course, this being legalisation and laws, there are caveats and hoops which include:
- Nightclubs will have the option to open til 6am – but alcohol cannot be served after 5am. Strict conditions for such licenses include CCTV on the premises and security staff accredited with the Private Security Authority.
- Nightclubs must also have at least 20% of their floor allocated for dancing with a live band or DJ playing.
- It was also suggested that those late hours permit would be accessed mainly by large nightclubs, not every nightclub.
- The introduction of a new yearly permit for venues and late bars to abolish the Special Exemption Order system, which is currently financially prohibitive and largely redundant.
- Licenses can only be granted by the courts, with objections allowed from the HSE, fire authorities, the gardaí and local authorities. Local people with a genuine interest may also object to the granting or renewal of a licence.
- Opening hours for late bars will remain at up to 2.30am subject to strict conditions, and a late bar permit.
- Responsibility for licensing will move from the Circuit Court to the District Court, in an effort to streamline. Online renewal will be an option unlike before.
- Extinguishment rules around pubs will be transitioned over a three-year period to allow new licensed venues to operate, meaning that there will no longer be a limit to the number of alcohol licenses in the country.
A new cultural licence:
- A new cultural amenity licence will give cultural venues more options for late night events, meaning that theatres, museums, galleries and other cultural institutions will also be allowed sell alcohol where previously they have been prohibited.
Night-Time Advisors for 9 cities and towns
In addition, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D announced:
- Grants to be provided for sound-proofing of venues to allow for late opening (€2 million total)
- Night-Time Economy advisors to be appointed to nine new pilot towns and cities as part of the Night-Time Advisor Pilot initiative.
- The selected pilot locations are Dublin City, Cork City, Limerick City, Galway City, Kilkenny, Drogheda, Sligo, Buncrana and Longford Town.
It’s a big step in the right direction for modernising Irish nightlife laws and licensing, some of what date back to 1935 and 1879.
The actual text of the bill is available here.