Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has today finalised a Bill to modernise outdated liquor licensing legislation in Northern Ireland.
The Minister said she was delighted to deliver this much anticipated reform. The licensing Bill was a priority for the Minister when taking up post and it has now completed its Final Stage in the Assembly.
The Bill includes the following changes to licensing laws:-
The Bill will now be put forward for Royal Assent. It is expected the majority of the provisions in the Bill will become law in October this year, with some requiring a longer lead in time.
A full statutory review of licensing laws in Northern Ireland will also be held following an amendment to the licensing bill secured by SDLP assembly member (MLA) Matthew O'Toole on Tuesday afternoon, meaning the Department for Communities must begin an independent review within the next year, including an investigation of how the so-called "surrender principle" affects the industry.*
The principle means no new licence can be granted unless another one is surrendered.
Licences for selling alcohol on and off premises are also convertible in court, which means that every supermarket or convenience store seeking to add an off sales needs to acquire a licence from somewhere else.
Mr O'Toole said the review would be a "first step toward reforming the system here so that it works for everyone".
*Source: BBC News