20th Apr 2019 in Business

As we enter the Easter holiday period once again it is time that antiquated licensing laws must be reformed, according to Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (CQ BID) Manager, Gareth Neill.

At present the law means that licensed premises are not allowed to sell any alcohol from 5pm until 11pm on Good Friday. Yet, off licenses can sell alcohol from 8am to 11pm.

Additionally, licensed premises must stop serving alcohol by 11pm on Easter Saturday, and 10pm on Easter Sunday.

Gareth said: “Alcohol licensing laws may seem to be a small part of the economy, but what it generates is significant across hospitality, retail and service industries and at the moment we are not seeing any movement. This is costing the hospitality sector many millions of pounds through antiquated legislation.

“CQ BID attended a recent Business Hustings event with electoral reps for Belfast City Council. Whilst not the lawmakers the elected representatives should be making the case and taking the mandate to the civil service to progress; with or without a minister.

“Our colleagues in the Republic have instigated change it is about time we took a pragmatic and flexible approach to a key period in the calendar.

“We have 21 licensed premises in the Cathedral Quarter who need the flexibility work within more proactive legislation.”

He added:  “Everyone at CQ BID understands that this is a special time of year for those with deeply held religious beliefs,” said Gareth. “But, this is a time when our bars, restaurants and hotels should be thriving, rather than having their hands tied by out-of-date laws.

“Before the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Assembly some progress was being made to change our antiquated licensing laws.”

“Colleagues in Hospitality Ulster lobbied hard to get the legislation ready for statute and the failings of Stormont,” he said.  Everyone in the sector feels that reform is overdue, and urge the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, to step in to deal with this anachronism.”

Amongst the restaurants in the Cathedral Quarter is Made In Belfast. Managing Director, Emma Bricknell has recently spoken about the licensing laws in her article on entrepreneurship here.

“Before the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly collapsed there were tentative moves to reform licensing, and with that came some degree of hope,”

Emma said. “But it was a glimmer and once again we in the industry are fighting against archaic licensing laws with backdrop of the abyss of Brexit.

“It’s ridiculously hard. It is pathetic some of these laws. Licensing is a joke. There’s no reason, it’s ironic that the people holding it back are those that want to be part of the UK, and I’ve no idea why in their small-minded heads why they think it can’t change. It’s a license.”

“Our Sunday trading hours need to change and the antiquated laws around Easter baffle visitors.”

In a statement Hospitality Ulster has said, “The wider liquor licensing laws should be sorted as part of this process once and for all and not just give special status to big event promoters who will be gone as soon as they arrive.”

With a consultation on allowing licensing to be extended for ‘special events’ such as the Open Golf tournament, Manufacturing NI Chief executive Stephen Kelly said the situation in Northern Ireland affects, as well as the entire hospitality sector, local producers.

He said: “If these changes are implemented, we’ll have the frankly baffling scenario where people can buy a bottle of mass produced American whiskey at a sporting event, but two miles down the road our award winning, world famous whiskey distilleries aren’t allowed to sell a bottle of their product to those same tourists.”

Keep In Touch

Get our weekly update on the latest and greatest news and events straight to your inbox.