FSB calls for licensing laws to be modernised to support tourism growth

The FSB has called for licensing laws in the north to be simplified and modernised
Ryan McAleer

THE north's largest business body has called for a change to licensing laws to allow small distilleries and breweries to sell their products to visitors.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which represents thousands of businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector has urged the Department for Communities (DfC) to act to match the Executive's long-term goal of developing a world-class tourism offering in Northern Ireland.

The comments were made in response to the department's consultation into the north's current licensing laws, which closed on Friday.

It is seven years since the last review into licensing legislation, which led to the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill 2016.

The bill was passing its way through the Assembly when the institutions collapsed in January 2017.

DfC said the latest review seeks to establish whether there is a widespread appetite to relax licensing laws.

The hospitality industry is worth an estimated £1.2 billion a year to the Northern Ireland economy, sustaining around 60,000 jobs, while tourists alone spend £350m each year on food drink.

Roger Pollen, head of external affairs of FSB NI, said the Executive had played its part in attracting tourists, with the sector responding by developing the facilities and services for visitors and the domestic market.

“Now, we are calling on politicians and regulators to modernise the licensing regime to ensure we can properly service this customer base.”

He said: “The licensing system in unnecessarily complex; we need to see it simplified, but we also need to see it responding more flexibly to our evolving small business economy.”

The FSB said a new licence should be introduced to allow small breweries and distilleries to sell their products to visitors.

“We are urging the department to map out a modern and responsive licensing regime for the politicians to take forward early in the life of a new Executive,” said Mr Pollen.

“Licensing reform is one of many issues where the Executive could take action to improve our economy with no cost to the public purse; it is high time this issue is taken forward to complement other Executive ambitions.”

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