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A round-up of Easter Licensing social media ire

This is just a sample of course, from those of us in Northern Ireland who are sick, tired & embarrassed of our Easter opening hours.     And here’s one of many bars that will have had to close due to the opening hours…   Of course the views of the general public seems fairly obvious… Industry body Hospitality Ulster was on the case all weekend, sharing messages from its members calling for normalisation of the hours…...

#BlameMervyn – Easter 2015 / 1715

Everyone has their thing, their “if I was Prime Minister I would…”, mine is Easter Licensing. Except it’s more than that, it’s institutionalising one faith over that of another, enshrining the rights of the few to be of more importance than the rights of the rest. Yes, I have worked in the hospitality industry for a long time and it affects me and “us” but I can’t foresee a time where it doesn’t bother me so much that I have to do what I can to highlight it and hope that some day, enact change.   Alcohol, that’s what it tends to come down to, when discussing this issue with a pro-restriction supporter, reducing such an expansive issue to its lowest common denominator, is that enough of an argument to make, that alcohol is bad, it’s controlled, it’s addictive etc etc. No, of course it isn’t, if that was the case then alcohol would be banned, instead of having an arbitrary restriction placed on it for a particular religiously significant period. So, for those who aren’t aware, here are the restrictions.     Thursday (Before Easter Friday) Alcohol can be sold as normal throughout the day, but must cease by 11pm, unless a late extension license exists, when it must not be sold after midnight. (Many bars and all nightclubs have this extension, generally speaking, if a bar opens until 1am or later at a weekend, it has a late extension of their license)     Good Friday   ON-SALES (for consumption on premises)   Alcohol can ONLY be sold between 5pm and 11pm. There are no late licenses...

Easter is Easter. Christianity ruins it for everyone

Everyone has their thing, their “if I was Prime Minister I would…”, mine is Easter Licensing. Except it’s more than that, it’s institutionalising one faith over that of another, enshrining the rights of the few to be of more importance than the rights of the rest. Yes, I have worked in the hospitality industry for a long time and it affects me and “us” but I can’t foresee a time where it doesn’t bother me so much that I have to do what I can to highlight it and hope that some day, enact change.   Alcohol, that’s what it tends to come down to, when discussing this issue with a pro-restriction supporter, reducing such an expansive issue to its lowest common denominator, is that enough of an argument to make, that alcohol is bad, it’s controlled, it’s addictive etc etc. No, of course it isn’t, if that was the case then alcohol would be banned, instead of having an arbitrary restriction placed on it for a particular religiously significant period. So, for those who aren’t aware, here are the restrictions.     Thursday (Before Easter Friday) Alcohol can be sold as normal throughout the day, but must cease by 11pm, unless a late extension license exists, when it must not be sold after midnight. (Many bars and all nightclubs have this extension, generally speaking, if a bar opens until 1am or later at a weekend, it has a late extension of their license)     Good Friday   ON-SALES (for consumption on premises)   Alcohol can ONLY be sold between 5pm and 11pm. There are no late licenses...

What are they drinking up at Stormont?

This will come as no surprise to many of you…but I’m in the business of selling booze. I sell food too, but more than 50% of the turnover of my business, is Alcohol. (Thats not my Bar Back, but it is a great one) What may surprise some people, is that there is a bar at Stormont Assembly Buildings. A Members Bar so to speak, which essentially means that not just anybody can stroll in for a double vodka and red bull, you have to be with somebody who is accredited to be there. I was in it a while back when meeting with an MLA, I chose not to hit the drink, just a glass of water for me…but there it was in all its glory. I had gone up the hill with the aim of seeing what the opinion was of my campaign and ascertain if I could get any traction, and if I could, who with…and the MLA collected me from the foyer, and brought me here…It wasn’t the worlds most elaborate bar…I’m not sure they had any Boston Shakers or Galway Bay – Of Foam & Fury…I’m not actually sure they had much at all..but they did have the basics which I suppose does the job for them. I didn’t engage the MLA about the bar beyond my initial surprise, when so many members of the dominant political party treat alcohol as if it were the Unspoken 11th Plague of Egypt (Smear Buckfast above your doorway before dusk to be spared the reckoning..), I expected a dry building. I did figure that there would be...

#BlameNelson to become #BlameMervyn ??

I’ll be honest…I’m not sure I like “#BlameMervyn” as a hashtag…it doesnt have the…gravitas. But perhaps in time, I have not yet any direct reason to feel personally aggrieved by Minister Storey. I have some absolutely fundamental differences with his viewpoints…on probably every issue up for discussion, however I have not yet heard his opinion on Easter Licensing clarified, so instead of assuming that just because: He is in the Knights of Malta He is Vice Chairman of the Caleb Foundation He is a Creationist (<- Definitely worth clicking that link….) He objected to an exhibition at the Ulster Museum on evolution, and insisted they have creationist exhibits as well He objected to signs at the Giants Causeway stating that it was “millions of years old”…I presume he subscribes to the Finn McCool theory So yes, despite these …differences of opinion that I would have with Minister Storey, I felt it best to get his view on the issue. So I have sent him an email: Dear Sir, I am writing as an interested party to the easter licensing law reform that your ministerial predecessor, Nelson McCausland had set out. I have been campaigning on this issue for some time now and am interested to see what your current stand point on this is. Do you intend to keep to Nelson McCauslands original alterations or are you open to further consultation/research on the topic? As a bar manager in the hospitality industry, it is my view that the current easter weekend legislation is discriminatory towards those who do not choose to observe easter as a religious holiday. A great many...

#BlameNelson – FOI Request response #1

As I previously blogged about, I sent a freedom of information request to the DSD social policy unit with multiple questions, I received the following response:         Dear Mr [REDACTED]   Date: 4 August 2014       Freedom of Information Act 2000   I refer to your request under the above legislation for information held by this Department about proposed changes to liquor licensing law in Northern Ireland.   I have considered your request and have dealt with the following section of your email under the Freedom of Information Act 2000:   What research has the minister and his department undertaken to ascertain the financial impact of:   A: Increasing the Thursday of Easter closing time from midnight until 1am on Friday morning   B: Increasing the Saturday of Easter closing time from midnight until 1am on Sunday morning   C: What would be the expected increase in HMRC revenue (through National Insurance & Income Tax, and keeping part time workers above the line required to claim income support) by standardizing Good Friday in line with any other Friday of the year(highlighting reduced trade in restaurants for lunch, bars closing at 11pm and nightclubs not opening at all)   D: What would be the expected increase in HMRC revenue (through National Insurance & Income Tax, and keeping part time workers above the line required to claim income support) by standardizing Easter Sunday in line with any other Sunday of the year (highlighting the ban upon alcohol being sold through off-sales and subsequently off sales remaining closed for the entire day)   I am writing to...

#BlameNelson and the freedom of information request #1

So, at the suggestion of the fine twitterer, @gaygael, I decided that there are aspects of Easter licensing that, whilst being incredibly unfair from my admittedly bias point of view, are genuinely and objectively inexplicable. So I have sent some requests to DSD. Some of these I expect an answer to, but in this case, “no answer available” is just as useful for my cause. If #BlameNelson can’t quantify how much is lost in HMRC revenue by off sales closing entirely on Easter Sunday, then how can he legislate change which hasn’t been researched… There are further points to come from this, and not just DSD, PSNI and the NI Courts Service will receive requests depending on the answers I receive. So if you have any interest, these are the questions asked… Nelson McCausland, as minister for social development recently announced changes to liquor licensing in the province. I request the following information: Which passages from the bible helped the minister come to the conclusion that alcohol should be relatively restrictive over Easter weekend each year? Why is Easter given special significance within licensing legislation, when other religious holidays such as Ramadan are not in any way legislated for? Why am I, as a non-christian, restricted in my available working hours due to a Christian holiday? I work in a bar and there are less shifts required on Good Friday due to restriction on alcohol being sold, therefore I am losing working hours due to a religious holiday I do not subscribe to. What research has the minister and his department undertaken to ascertain the financial impact of: A:...

#BlameNelson My Response To His Response To The Responses

So today, Nelson McCausland has announced today the changes he intends to make in response to the public consultation on the future of the licensed industry. He was supposed to make it a couple of weeks ago, but then the DSD committee all agreed he was a big fat liar over a separate issue and then that afternoon the National Unionist Powerwalking Society commenced an impulsive brisk walk out of a meeting to help steer our province into the future, and the media got distracted by this unexpected exercise, so #BlameNelson got away with it. He has made a few announcements, including bringing Entertainment Licenses into line with Alcohol Licenses, this is both good and important, there was no parity previously, alcohol could not be sold after 1am, but some venues had entertainment licenses until 3am…and surprise surprise, some venues took the piss and sold booze when they shouldn’t, cough cough RAIN NIGHTCLUB UNDER THE RUNNING OF DANNY MORTON WHO KNOW RUNS VILLA NIGHTCLUB ALTHOUGH ITS IN A YOUNG RELATIVES NAME cough cough. So this is a good thing. Well done Pubs of Ulster for steering this through. He also said that premises would be able to open serving alcohol until 2am 12 times a year…well that’s neither here nor there. Premises will have to apply for this and no doubt there will be a fee, I expect the fee isn’t going to be £50 and an SAE so it may end up being only viable for big bars and nightclubs anyway…I shall wait and see. Now…to Easter. Firstly, Easter is special to Christians. If you don’t know why...

#BlameNelson: a working group?

So to take this as far as I can I have come to the decision that it would be preferable to not just be me steering it. Altruistically, I have the best interests of the hospitality industry at heart, however Basil probably thought that whilst installing himself as Über-Sexën-Führer of NI21… I have the opportunity to get some questions asked in the assembly about Easter licensing reform and is love it to not just be me concocting them…like a fine cocktail, this should involve multiple ingredients. So I’m looking for some interested parties who work in and around the licensed hospitality trade who are willing to chip in with ideas and drive and direction. No big commitment, if you want to help with the spam war then great, if not…that’s fine. Maybe we’ll meet up somewhere for a chat about things, maybe it’ll just be a group email-round, maybe even I’ll finally work out what a “google hangout” is. Either way, I would like the input of other individuals. It’s important to me to hear from outside of Belfast too, in my opinion, this hurts the hinterlands worse. So get in touch, if you know someone who might be interested, let them know I’m lookin’...

#BlameNelson an update pt. 2

I received an email from a DUP MLA today, in response to my original mail out to receive political responses to ascertain the current lay-of-the-land. To find friendly faces to to speak. I won’t name names publicly, but here is dialogue so far with this particular MLA Belfast Barman: I’m writing regarding Easter licensing hours for the hospitality trade. I ran a bit of an amateurish campaign over the Easter long weekend to gauge what public, professional & political opinion was and the response was resounding. The basis of the campaign was to highlight that current legislation is causing severe damage to the hospitality industry and tourism potential over such a potentially lucrative period, it really makes us look like we’re still in the dark ages I had some support from MLA’s across the political spectrum in helping get awareness of the issue raised. I’m writing to you as you are on the REDACTED committee and I would love to get your opinion on the issue. I think the legislation is often seen as only affected DSD but my view is that it affects enterprise, trade, investment, employment, finance and a great deal of other areas too. Imagine the potential tourist influx from Ireland over the long weekend if our hospitality law was 21st century, and representative of a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. As it is, publicans and restauranteurs spend a significant amount of time over what should be a busy period having to explain to locals & tourists alike what the law restricts them to. I have attached some tools I have been using to explain the issue to...

Can easter rise? #BlameNelson

Can Easter Rise?   Year on year, members of the hospitality trade & the tourism industry shout loudly from atop their metaphorical pulpits about the antiquated licensing laws over the easter long weekend. Year on year, by the time the discarded egg wrappers have been taken away by the binmen, the issue has been forgotten about until next year. It is the proverbial Christmas Tree of these industries, we leave it in the attic, neglected & abandoned until next year. If we want change (and I think the general consensus amongst any rational-minded person is that we do…) then it can’t be a fortnightly rant; it must be sustained, it must be persistent & it must be high profile. Over the long weekend, I ran an amateur armchair campaign using the hashtag #blamenelson. You might have noticed it, you might not…although given the sheer volume of tweets I was sending, and how voraciously it was Favourited, Retweeted, Replied to & Quoted, if you didn’t see it…you were probably away on holiday enjoying a nice refreshing beer on a warm Friday afternoon in a beachfront bar. A luxury which you cannot indulge in on our shores(not just because we rarely have warmth & beachfront bars are as scarce as a liberal DUP member). Running this campaign was an attempt to see what the appetite for the issue was across northern irish society; and not just within my industry. I learned a great deal through this, including that there genuinely does seem to be not just insatiable public appetite for reform, but also a significant number of elected representatives agreed with...