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Law on licensed premises and registered clubs

Find out how licensing laws are applied in Northern Ireland. This includes what liquor licenses are and how to apply.

Liquor licences

Liquor licensing is regulated by legislation in Northern Ireland, which provides for 12 types of premises to be licensed to sell alcohol to the public. There are different conditions attached to each type of premises. The premises are:

  • pubs
  • off-licences
  • hotels
  • guest houses
  • restaurants
  • conference centres
  • higher education institutions
  • places of public entertainment (theatres, ballrooms, race tracks)
  • refreshment rooms in public transport premises (railway or bus stations, airports and harbours)
  • seamen’s canteens
  • indoor arenas
  • non-seagoing vessels

Applying for a liquor licence

Applicants must apply to the courts for a liquor licence and demonstrate that certain conditions have been met, in particular that:

  • the licence holder is fit to hold a licence
  • the premises are suitable for the sale of alcohol

Registered clubs’ law

Private member clubs who wish to supply alcohol to members and their guests are regulated by legislation in Northern Ireland. Clubs must apply to the courts for a certificate of registration and demonstrate that they comply with strict conditions which prove that they are run in good faith as a club.

Developments in licensing and clubs laws

A number of changes to licensing laws in Northern Ireland were made in 2012. In particular:

  • a penalty points system is in place for breaches of licensing legislation
  • licensed premises and registered clubs must display a notice with information on underage sales, listing the documents acceptable as proof of age
  • the PSNI have powers to close licensed premises and registered clubs in the event of disorder and certain irresponsible drink promotions that encourage excessive drinking can be banned

During 2012 a public consultation on proposed changes to the law on licensed premises and registered clubs took place. It aimed to contribute towards a reduction in alcohol related harm and help make the licensed trade offering more sustainable and attractive to tourists.

The report on the consultation outcome, which is being considered, is available on the Department of Social Development website:

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