An online petition has been launched in an effort to change Northern Ireland’s Easter period licensing laws.
The Pubs of Ulster group is also continuing to lobby political leaders in the hope of giving entertainment venue owners the freedom to trade longer.
The petition is based on an open letter to DSD minister Mervyn Storey which states: “Please reform and modernise licensing laws over the whole of Easter weekend for the hospitality sector to be representative of our multi-cultural and multi-faith society. I do not want a law to force free citizens to observe a religious holiday whether they want to or not, at a great loss to the taxpayer.”
As the law stands, supermarkets and off-sales can sell alcohol as normal, with the exception of Easter Sunday when they have to close, but pubs, restaurants and nightclubs can only open between 5pm and 11pm on Good Friday, must close by midnight tomorrow night and can only sell alcohol between 12.30pm and 10pm.
Colin Neill of Pubs of Ulster said the current laws did not stop people from drinking alcohol over the Easter weekend, but simply changed their drinking habits temporarily.
“All it does is shift people to their home parties, or to unlicensed restaurants – the ‘bring your own’ venues,” he said. “Obviously we would like to see it all normalised. The alcohol is already available, it’s just from where, so we are just saying level the playing field so people can go to a licensed premises instead of taking a bottle of wine to a pizzeria.”