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Longer opening hours for pubs and nightclubs under new laws, as publicans call for 5am closing time

A memo gone to Cabinet today sets out that the country’s licensing laws need to be updated as some date back to the 19th century.

Image: PA

PUBS AND NIGHTCLUBS could soon be allowed to stay open later as the Government is expected to approve the drafting on new laws to “modernise Ireland’s licensing laws”.

A memo gone to Cabinet today sets out that the country’s licensing laws need to be updated as some date back to the 19th century.

Minister Helen McEntee gave a commitment a number of months ago to bring Ireland’s pub and nightclub opening hours more in line with Europe, while also stating that she wanted to make it easier for theatres, galleries and museums to get an alcohol license in a bid to boost the nightlife economy.

With McEntee on currently on maternity leave, Minister Hildegarde Naughton, the Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Justice, will seek Cabinet approval to draft the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill 2021.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has welcomed the upcoming reform and modernisation of the licensing laws, saying an overhaul was “long overdue”.

As part of the reforms, the LVA will be seeking to have late night trading hours extended to 5am, seven nights a week. They will also be pressing for a 50% reduction in the costs of late night licenses.

The objective of the proposed Bill is to repeal the Licensing Acts and the Registration of Clubs Acts in their entirety and to replace them with updated provisions “more suited to the 21st century”.

It is also the intention of the Government to repeal the Public Dance Hall Act 1935 as part of government efforts to support culture, hospitality and nightclub sectors.

Currently, nightclubs and late bars need to obtain a Special Exemption Order from the District Court under the pretence that a special event is taking place.

This is also a commitment in the report of the Night Time Economy Taskforce, which went to Cabinet today also, and is being launched later today by Ministers Catherine Martin and Minister Naughton.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously told The Journal that nightclub and pub opening hours need to be reformed and brought more in line with other cities in Europe. 

Varadkar said the laws are “really archaic”, and stated that he does not believe extending opening hours would lead to anti-social behaviour. 

Restrictions

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Varadkar was asked about the recent comments from the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan who said that the reintroduction of Covid-19 measures “cannot be fully ruled out” in the future due to the uncertain nature of the virus.

Holohan and other members of NPHET are due to speak before the Oireachtas Health Committee today with the CMO set to outline an “uncertain trajectory” for the virus despite “very high uptake” of vaccines.

Varadkar said the CMO is “correct” in his comments, stating that they government cannot “rule out the possibility of restrictions being re-imposed”. However, he said it “is not the same as saying that it is planned or likely, because it isn’t”.

Ireland’s data on case numbers and deaths is “good if not better” than the four modelled scenarios that were put forward by the public health experts, he said. 

The Tanaiste said the country is “on track” for further reopening at the end of September and into October.

While he said he could not rule the re-imposing of restrictions, Varadkar said “that is not planned nor is it likely”.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said this morning the Government isn’t considering more restrictions, stating if anything the models presented to Cabinet a number of weeks ago were “more pessimistic”. He said there is now a “better prognosis than what we thought three our four weeks ago”.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said all options have to remain on the table in a pandemic but added “that is not the same as saying the Government has any plans whatsoever to re-impose restrictions”. He said the Government will take into account the situation at any point in time, and won’t “shirk their responsibility” if action needs to be taken. 

“In overall terms we are doing really well,” he said, stating that situation right now is very stable.

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Motion of no confidence 

In terms of the motion of no confidence that Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney faces this evening, Varadkar said he believes the vote tonight will “draw a line” under the controversy.

He is confident that Coveney will win the vote by a good margin.

Ryan said that Green Party members have been told to support the government in the vote this evening. “We have said we are going to be voting in favour of the government. We have a responsibility to work together to serve the public,” he said.

Asked if he thought the Sinn Fein motion is a wasted opportunity, he said he wouldn’t have picked this as a motion of confidence, adding that he is not sure the Irish public see this as an issue that should collapse the Government.

McGrath said lessons have been learnt “from this whole sorry episode”.

“This sort of thing won’t happen again,” he added.

When asked if there will be any rebel Fianna Fail members that vote against the Government, he said: “Not that I know of.”

“Until the vote happens you can never be absolutely sure,” he said, but pointing out that the party whip does apply.

His party is anxious to move on from what happened, though he stated what happened with the fiasco over the UN envoy role and Katherine Zappone was “wrong”. 

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