Later opening times for pubs and nightclubs are set to kick in by next summer, according to the Justice Minister.
elen McEntee said she hopes legislation will be passed by next summer after the Cabinet signed off on an overhaul of the country’s 200-year-old licensing laws.
The law changes were supposed to be enacted by the end of this year but the “lengthy and complex” legal changes need time to be scrutinised and passed through the Dáil.
“My hope is that it would be enacted by next summer, to be able to allow venues, nightclubs, pubs or others to avail of these changes,” she said.
Nightclubs will be able to open until 6am and pubs until 12.30am every night of the week under the changes signed off by senior ministers.
Last orders will have to be taken at nightclubs at 5am but dancing will be allowed until 6am.
Supermarkets and off-licences will also be able to sell alcohol from 10.30am on Sundays.
Under existing legislation, pubs have to stop serving at 11.30pm between Monday and Thursday, with this extending to 12.30am on Friday and Saturday, while final orders are at 11pm on Sunday.
Taxi app Free Now welcomed the extended opening hours but said there is a need for “improved and extended” public transport which operates “day and night”.
Ms McEntee said the longer opening hours will take the pressure off public transport as revellers will not all be going home at the same time. She said buses will operate in the early hours of the morning.
“While it’s not an absolute science I do believe that by spacing these numbers out it will help in terms of that kind of antisocial behaviour,” she said.
Concerns have also been raised about longer opening hours leading to increased alcohol consumption.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he doesn’t think the changes to licensing laws will lead to an increase in alcohol consumption but added that “nobody can say for sure”.
Ms McEntee said the Government is trying to “get the right balance” between alcohol consumption and improved licensing for nightclubs and pubs.
“Where problems arise on a premises, where it’s alcohol-related or otherwise, the gardaí have the powers to issue a warning and to then seek an order from the district court to shut them down if they don’t respond,” she said.
“There is a very clear opportunity for the gardaí and others to make their concerns and their objections known particularly if a venue has not taken any lengths to try to resolve the concerns or issue arising.”
It is estimated that 20 years ago there were 500 nightclubs – this fell to 300 in 2009. There are 80 in operation today. Ms McEntee said the sector is “dying on its feet”.