The first changes for new legislation to reform liquor licensing laws in Northern Ireland has come into effect today, October 1.

The first phase will mostly involve the extension of opening and drinking-up times, which will be a welcome boost for the hospitality sector in the lead up to the festive season.

The remainder of The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2021, which Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey successfully brought through the Northern Ireland Assembly earlier this year, will be commenced in phases over the next few years.

Minister Hargey said: “I was pleased to be able to deliver this new legislation. The next step is to ensure it is successfully brought into operation.

“From October 1, the first changes of the major reforms I have delivered will become a reality.

“This first phase will see restrictions on Easter opening being lifted, meaning Easter weekend next year will be the same as any other weekend throughout the year.

“It includes pub and hotel licence holders being able to apply for later opening, providing them with more flexibility, particularly in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year.

“It will also see drinking-up time increased from 30 minutes to one hour, which will support a more gradual dispersal of people from licensed premises.”

She continued: “My Department will continue to engage with stakeholders to bring the remaining provisions of this reform into operation.

“Most of the remaining provisions will come in to effect next April, with some others requiring a slightly longer period.”

Some of the provisions coming into effect from today 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 one hour;
  • All additional restrictions on opening hours over Easter weekend will be removed;
  • Removal of restrictions on late opening on Sunday;
  • Licensed race tracks will be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays; and
  • Registered clubs will be able to open to 1am, up to 104 nights per year.