New proposals to change alcohol licensing laws have been welcomed by the pubs industry in South Belfast, which is hoping for a boost in tourism. Department of Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has proposed to introduce additional late opening hours from 1am to 2am at occasional times of the year, after an agreement by many pubs and clubs with police to close at 1am in South Belfast nightspots.

Stephen Magorrian the Managing Director of Botanic Inns believes this is a positive move by the DSD.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by these proposals that have been made by the minister.

“It is a progressive step that is necessary to support the industry and is a step closer to where we want to be,” he said.

The extent of the changes will depend on a public response to a consultation, which will run for 16 weeks from this week.

Colin Neill, Chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, is pleased that years of lobbying have paid off.

“We have been working on this for a long time,” he said.

“The pubs industry is making small, positive moves but it is a case of modernisation not deregulation. Eighty per cent of tourists who visit Northern Ireland go to a pub, which highlights our position as the largest tourism industry.”

The extended opening times could range between four and 12 times a year. And the Botanic Inns boss Stephen Magorrian had hoped that the proposals would have gone further.

“If we are going to be serious about developing tourism then it is necessary to back the industry.

“It is important that all publicans stick together and show that pubs in Northern Ireland are taking a responsible attitude towards the sale of alcohol,” said Stephen Magorrian.

Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Nelson McCausland said: “While tackling irresponsible drinking, I also feel it is important to recognise the contribution made to the local economy by the licensed trade, which has changed in recent years and makes a significant contribution to our tourism offering, as well as providing much needed employment.”