Selling alcohol

Rules for selling alcohol


There are a number of rules around selling alcohol in Northern Ireland. Your premises must be licensed. See apply for a licence to sell alcohol.

Important: Supermarkets are permitted to sell alcohol at any point of sale or checkout, until 22.30 on 31 December 2020.

Other rules for selling alcohol include:

  • Time of day - there are certain hours during which licensed premises may sell alcohol. Certain premises can apply for an extended licence. The permitted hours are slightly different around Easter and Christmas. See when you can sell alcohol in Northern Ireland.
  • Area - if only part of your premises is licensed, then you may only sell alcohol in this area. Children may only be in parts of your premises that either do not have a bar or have a children's certificate.
  • Conditions of sale - there are conditions for particular types of premises when selling alcohol. For example, restaurants may only sell alcohol as part of a meal. Many premises must ensure they have other drinks and food available when they are selling alcohol. Off-licences must not allow customers to consume alcohol they have bought at the premises on-site.
  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour - you must not sell alcohol to anyone who is clearly drunk or allow customers to behave in a disorderly way in your premises.
  • Drinks promotions ­- it is illegal to run an irresponsible drinks promotion. This includes promotions that supply unlimited alcoholic drinks for a fixed price.
  • Weights and measures - drinks including wine, beer and spirits may only be sold in specific quantities. See weights and measures rules for pubs, restaurants and cafes.

There are a number of rules around alcohol that protect the welfare of young people.

Children at licensed premises

Young people under the age of 18 are not allowed in bars, unless the premises has a children's certificate. This includes pubs and areas of licensed premises (eg restaurants and hotels) containing bars. The court will issue a children's certificate provided the premises meets certain criteria. The certificate allows young people to stay on the premises until 21:00, or 21:30 if they are finishing a meal.

Exceptions to this are that young people are allowed to be in:

  • an off-licence if they are with an adult
  • a refreshment room at a railway or bus station, airport or harbour terminal
  • a sporting club until 22:00
  • arenas and stadiums

Young people and alcohol sales

It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18. It is also against the law to sell alcohol to someone who you believe will supply it to someone under 18. You must not let anyone under 18 consume alcohol in your licensed premises.

You must verify the age of anyone who might be under 18. It is recommend that you ask any customer who looks under 25 for ID to prove they are over 18. Acceptable ID includes cards bearing the PASS symbol, passports and driving licences.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association offers retailers advice and resources to check proof of age when selling alcohol.