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The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2021 (the Act) which received Royal Assent on 26 August 2021. The changes will come into effect in phases over the next few years with Phase 1 on 1 October 2021.
The current law dates back to 1996 and its reform was one of the Minister for Communities’ priorities on her appointment, and the Executive’s under the New Decade New Approach Deal. The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill 2016, the previous attempt to reform licensing, was nearing the end of its
Committee Stage when it fell with the dissolution of the Assembly in January 2017.
The Act amends the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (the Licensing Order) and the Registration of Clubs (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (the Clubs Order). The key changes include:
• Pubs and Hotels can apply to open until 2am up to 104 nights per year;
• Smaller pubs will be able to open to 1am up to 104 nights per year;
• Drinking-up time will be increased to 1 hour;
• All additional restrictions on opening hours over Easter weekend will be removed;
• Opening hours on Sunday evenings will be the same as any other night;
• There will be flexibility around opening hours for bars at major events;
• A new category of licence will be created for local producers of craft beers, ciders and spirits;
• Cinemas will be able to apply for a liquor licence and serve drink to customers watching a movie;
• Sporting clubs will be able to use their grounds for functions up to 6 times per year;
• Registered clubs will be able to open to 1am up to 104 nights per year;
• Self-service of alcohol and sales by vending machines will be prohibited;
• Restrictions will be placed on off-sales drinks promotions;
• Loyalty schemes will not be able to award or redeem points for the sale of alcoholic drinks