Businesses that wish to sell alcohol in Northern Ireland must apply for a liquor licence from the county court.
Who can apply for a liquor licence?
Certain types of premises, such as pubs, restaurants and hotels, can apply for a licence to sell alcohol. See businesses that can sell alcohol.
Only the business owner can apply for the licence.
You must prove you are fit to hold the licence. You will need to disclose any relevant criminal convictions. The court will consider your reputation, financial standing and ability to run the business. It will also take into account your staff's experience and qualifications.
You must also show that your premises is suitable place to sell alcohol. You must send a plan of the premises along with your application.
How to apply for a liquor licence
You can apply for a licence at your county court.
Before you apply you must:
- publish a notice in at least two local newspapers of your intention to apply for a licence, at least two weeks before the court sitting
- notify the local police station and local council of your intention to apply for a licence, at least three weeks before the court sitting
- display a notice at your premises stating your intention to apply at least three weeks before the court sitting
If your business is a hotel, guest house or conference centre, you will need to be certified by Tourism NI and obtain a licensing letter before you apply for your liquor licence.
How liquor licences are granted
The county court will decide to grant your licence based on a number of conditions. One of these is the ‘surrender principle’, which states that the court will only grant a licence if either:
- there is a lack of similar facilities in the local area
- an existing licence has been surrendered or will be surrendered
Renewing your liquor licence
Licences to sell alcohol are granted for up to five years. You must apply to the magistrates court to renew your licence before the deadline every five years. Any alterations to your premises will affect your renewal application.
If you hold a liquor licence, you can also apply for an occasional licence to sell alcohol away from your premises at special events. For example a local pub or restaurant may apply to sell alcohol at a food festival. If granted, the occasional licence is valid for up to six consecutive days.
Selling alcohol without a licence
Selling alcohol without a licence is illegal. You could be fined of £5,000 or face up to 6 months in prison.