Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reform the licensing laws to provide for later opening and staggered closing for clubs and theatres in order to foster night life in Dublin and elsewhere around Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18875/19]
478. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to abolish special exemption orders for late bars and nightclubs in view of the fact that the expense involved in gaining a SEO is perceived to strangle smaller businesses and promoters; and his plans to introduce instead an annual licence. [18876/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 477 and 478 together.
The position is that the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018 already provide for extended opening hours for certain licensed premises. Section 5 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 (as amended), provides that a holder of an on-licence or theatre licence may apply to the District Court for a special exemption order which permits extended opening hours for a special occasion. This facility is extensively used by hotels, late bars and nightclubs.
A special exemption order expires at 2.30 a.m. (1.00 a.m. where it extends to a Monday that is not a public holiday) unless the District Court, for stated reasons, grants the order for a shorter period. A further thirty minutes drinking-up time is also allowed. This means that the closing time for many premises using this facility is 3.00 a.m.
I am, of course, aware of the current debate concerning the promotion and fostering of night time culture. While I am in principle in favour of a vibrant night life, I am also conscious that it needs to be organised and managed in a manner that will not cause undue inconvenience or nuisance to local residents or create an undue risk to public order.
While I do not have immediate plans to amend the law in this area, I have an open mind on these matters. Any proposed changes to the law would, of course, require extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders, including groups representing local residents, the local authorities and An Garda Síochána.