Entertainment Venues: Closing Time

Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 28th May 2012.

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Photo of Steven Agnew Steven Agnew Green 2:30 pm, 28th May 2012

3. asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure for her assessment of the impact of a 2.00 am closing time on night-time culture and musical art in Northern Ireland. (AQO 2048/11-15)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The closing time of pubs and clubs, as I am sure the Member is aware, is not a matter for DCAL. I understand that the 2.00 am closing time was introduced under a voluntary arrangement between Pubs of Ulster, which represents pubs and nightclubs, the PSNI and licensees. The arrangement has resulted in a number of establishments closing at 2.00 am since April even though they hold a 3.00 am entertainments licence. My Department, through the Arts Council, supports a wide range of musical art activities. The vast majority of those activities, if not all, would be finished long before 2.00 am, and, therefore, they have not said to me that they are affected by those new arrangements.

Photo of Steven Agnew Steven Agnew Green

I thank the Minister for her answer. Minister, I appreciate what you said. But if we talk about culture such as night-time music culture and things along those lines and given how we are quite out of step with the rest of Europe, does the Minister not believe that greater liberalisation of our entertainment laws would help our night-time culture and economy?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I have spoken, through my constituency office, to licensees who have expressed concern, particularly at the need for better support from the Executive for the night-time economy through pubs and clubs. At the minute, we are looking at the disparity between the entertainments and the licences. But at the end of the day, the sector itself has been very good at lobbying.

It had an opportunity last year, but, unfortunately, it did not get passed through the House. I will receive requests from that sector, if it is appropriate, but it is not within my gift to influence any changes in licensing or entertainment licences.

Photo of Mickey Brady Mickey Brady Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Has DCAL been involved in any discussions with Pubs of Ulster regarding potential impact on art and culture events?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I have not been involved in such discussions as a Minister. As I said to Mr Agnew, I was in discussions with regard to lobbying through my constituency, as, I am sure, were other MLAs, but the voluntary arrangement was then reached. That is the last that I have heard. DCAL has not been approached officially in relation to the matter.

Photo of Michael Copeland Michael Copeland UUP

Given the fact that one prominent nightclub in Belfast has already left the voluntary arrangement to close at 2.00 am, can you detail the degree of engagement, if any, that you have had with the various entertainment sectors to facilitate a future agreement that strikes an appropriate balance and is acceptable to all?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I will repeat what I said to Mickey Brady. It is not within the remit of DCAL to do that. The issues around licences are for DOE and DSD.