How Licensing Solicitors Can Help You Navigate Alcohol Licence Laws

Any business, organisation or individual that plans on supplying alcohol to the public in Northern Ireland must apply for a licence to sell alcohol. Liquor licenses are regulated by legislation which requires that such applications are made through the courts and not at local government level as is the case in the remainder of the UK. As a consequence, you will need the help of a licensing solicitor.

There are several types of premises for which an alcohol licence application is necessary. They include (but are not limited to);

    • Premises where liquor is sold for consumption in or off the premises i.e. pubs
    • Premises where liquor is sold for consumption off the premises i.e. Off-licences
    • Restaurants, hotels and guest houses
    • Conference centres
    • Higher education institutions
    • Places of public entertainment i.e. race tracks, ballrooms, theatres
    • Refreshment rooms in public transport premises i.e. airports, bus or railway stations and harbours
    • Indoor arenas

There are separate requirements for alcohol licences for private clubs. These are also regulated by legislation in Northern Ireland which will require an application to the courts.

Applying for an Alcohol Licence

When you apply to the courts for a liquor licence, your application will only be granted if certain conditions have been met, including but not limited to the following;

In the case of an application for a licence in respect of either a public house or an off-licence, the applicant is also required to demonstrate to the court that the existing supply in the area in which the premises are situated is inadequate i.e. that there is a demand for an additional facility.

Whether the premises are suitable can also be a complicated matter. Several factors can determine the decision including whether or not the premises to be licensed have adequate planning approval.

The Alcohol Licence Application Procedure

The application procedure is fairly involved and you will need the help of an experienced licensing solicitor. This assistance includes all preparatory work connected to the application, including, in the case of an application for a public house or off-licence, advice connected to the acquisition of an existing licence which must be surrendered as part of the statutory process.

Recent Changes in Alcohol Licence Laws

In response to the growing number of problems related to excessive alcohol consumption and underage drinking, new powers have been included in the licensing legislation for Northern Ireland. Specifically, stronger enforcement measures have been introduced to reduce public health issues and to curb public disorder.

Applying for or holding a liquor licence can be a complicated affair and we recommend you seek the advice of a qualified solicitor. Here at MKB Law we have highly qualified solicitors, ranked and accredited by Chambers and Partners who are experts in this field with many years of experience.

If you would like to speak to a licensing solicitor about alcohol license laws and your business, call us on 028 9024 2450 or email us at

This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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