Everything you need to know about the new licensing laws for Ireland

By Fiona Frawley

October 26, 2022 at 10:49am


This week, Minister Helen McEntee received cabinet approval to reform Ireland’s "antiquated licensing system".

The current system is made up of a "patchwork of 100 laws" - some of which are over 200 years old and two thirds of which pre-date the foundation of the State 100 years ago.

McEntee believes the laws are in significant need of reform, and has published the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill to outline how she intends to implement these reforms.

Reforms to come into place include alcohol being sold earlier on a Sunday and, as you've probably heard, nightclubs being allowed to remain open til 6am. McEntee believes changes such as these will "support the development of night time culture and the night time economy".

Here's a breakdown of the proposed reforms, and everything you need to know about them:

Annual Permits for late bars and nightclubs


The permits would replace the current system where a Special Exemption Order (SEO) is required every time a venue wants to open after normal hours. This builds on previous measures introduced by the government to support the late night sector, such as the decision to halve the cost of SEOs in Budget 2023.

6am closing time for nightclubs

The reform intends to bring Ireland up to speed with other European countries, giving nightclubs the option to serve alcohol til 5am and remain open til 6am for dancing. Late bars will be permitted to open til 2:30am.

Strict requirements


Nightclubs and late bars will have to adhere to strict requirements to avail of these permits. They will require court approval, and objections will be allowed from fire authorities, the HSE, An Garda Síochána and local communities.

Other requirements include:

  • CCTV on the premises, and nightclubs and bars must also have security staff properly accredited with the Private Security Authority.
  • 20% of the floor allocated for dancing, and a live band or DJ must be playing
  • All venues must protect staff, patrons and performers from harassment, including sexual harassment in line with the new Night Time Economy Charter and the government’s Zero Tolerance Plan to tackle Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based violence

Off licence opening hours


Off licences and supermarkets will have the option of selling alcohol from 10.30am to 10pm seven days a week. This is a change from the current position where these hours apply six hours a week, with Sunday sales only permitted from 12.30pm on Sunday.

Reform of the 'extinguishment’ provision

The so-called extinguishment provision means that anyone seeking to open a new premises or an off licence must first purchase a licence from an existing licence holder in order to do so. This can be an issue for opening a new pub in towns and villages where some premises have shut, particularly in rural areas.

After a transition period of three years following the enactment of the Bill, Minister McEntee proposes to remove the extinguishment requirement to obtain a seven day on licence.

However, the ‘extinguishment’ requirement will remain in place for off licences, and will only be applicable to licences already in existence on the enactment of this Bill. No new licences granted under this Bill could be sold for extinguishment purposes.

New “cultural amenity licence” for cultural venues

This new license will permit galleries, theatres, museums and other cultural venues to sell alcohol between one hour before and one hour after a performance takes place. These licences will also require court approval and will have to meet the same requirements as a fully licensed premises, and will strictly be available for venues where the sale of alcohol is not the main activity on the premises - people must be attending the venue for a separate reason, eg, an exhibition.

Details of the licensing law reforms will be announced once the Cabinet agrees to overhaul the rules governing the opening of pub, clubs and late bars. The reforms are expected to come into effect some time next year.

Header image via Instagram/copperfacejacks 

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