Failure to change alcohol laws for Portrush Open leaves pubs in the rough

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Consumer group CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has expressed its disappointment that changes to licensing laws haven’t been put in place for the 148th Open golf tournament in Portrush which starts this Friday (July 18).

Following a recent public consultation, the Northern Ireland Department for Communities agreed that changing the law on alcohol sales at special events, such as the Open golf tournament, would benefit the local tourism and hospitality industries.

The proposal would have allowed more flexible opening hours as well as the sale of alcohol from shops and stalls at designated ‘special events’, however, the idea has been abandoned because it would have required a change in the law in a restored Assembly or at Westminster.

CAMRA said the lack of action to change licensing laws is a missed opportunity for pubs and breweries across Northern Ireland.

CAMRA Director for Northern Ireland Sarah Crawford said: “The Open will undoubtedly be a huge boost for Portrush’s economy and businesses this week, and I hope as many visitors as possible get a chance to sample some of Northern Ireland’s fantastic ales whilst enjoying the competition.

“The abandoned changes would have been made it much easier for pubs to stay open longer and for local brewing businesses to sell local produce from stalls and shops. It’s a huge missed opportunity to showcase the best of Northern Ireland’s growing brewing sector.

“On a more positive note, it is encouraging that the main parties have agreed to bring a Licensing Bill before a restored Assembly at Stormont. CAMRA is working with pub-goers, brewers, publicans and others to make sure that any changes will include longer opening hours for pubs all year round and provisions to allow local breweries and cider producers to sell great local products on their premises after brewery tours, in taprooms and at local markets and events.”