In Northern Ireland, private members clubs don’t need a liquor licence if they wish to supply alcohol to members and guests on their premises. However, they must register with the county court. You must also register if you allow members to bring their own alcohol onto your premises.
Clubs that are eligible to register
Only private members clubs, such as certain sports clubs and social clubs, are eligible to register to supply alcohol.
Proprietary clubs are those that are owned by a proprietor and essentially operates as a business. They cannot register and must obtain a licence if they want to supply alcohol. See apply for a licence to sell alcohol.
You can only register your club if:
- affairs are carried out by an elected committee of a secretary, treasurer and at least five ordinary members
- you hold yearly elections to decide committee members
- you display names and addresses of anyone who wishes to be elected as a member at least one week before the election
- all members of the club have a vote in the election process
- the committee holds meetings on the running of the club
- you don’t allow people to become honorary members unless they have specific qualifications
- members pay an annual fee
- you keep an alphabetical list of the names and addresses of every member of the club
How to register as a club
You must follow the procedure in order in to apply. The secretary of the club must:
- give a year’s notice to the court, local police and council of your intention to apply
- advertise the application in at least two newspapers in the area between four and eight weeks before you make the application
- display a notice outside your premises at this time
There will be a hearing in the county court to decide the outcome of your application. The court may ask for further information or documents to help make their decision. They will also consider information given by other parties.
Your application will only be accepted if you meet all of the following criteria:
- you have followed the registration process
- your club meets the qualifying criteria
- the premises are considered suitable and proper – regarding the objects of the club and the maximum number of members
- the club's rules are satisfactory, and complied with
- the club is conducted in good faith for at least one year
- none of the officials have unspent convictions
If you are applying for a nightworkers club, you must be able to show that the members of the club require these opening hours, and that guests are not allowed to enter between the hours of 24.00 and 10.00 each day.
When you are registered
If your application is successful, you will be issued with a certificate of registration. The certificate specifies the name of the club, address of the premises, the name and address of the owner. For nightworkers clubs, it will include the hours fixed by the court. These details will also be entered on the register of clubs.
Your certificate lasts for five years or until the end of the current registration period -whichever is the sooner.
To renew your registration, you must follow the process as for a new registration, although you do not need to notify the court one year in advance. The renewal date for registration is 1 March of the year your registration is to expire.
As a registered club, you must comply with all ongoing obligations that relate to:
- opening hours
- conduct of registered clubs - such as supply of alcohol, conduct of members
- inspections and rights of entry by police