Let NI beer scene thrive by allowing breweries to open taprooms, MLAs hear
CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has today (21st January) urged MLAs to allow local breweries and cider producers to open taprooms on their premises, so more people can access independent and locally produced beer and cider.
CAMRA Chief Executive Tom Stainer gave evidence and took questions from MLAs on Stormont’s Communities Committee who are scrutinising the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill.
The consumer organisation also urged assembly members to consider how the licensing system’s ‘surrender principle’ could be reformed. This could prevent people from having to compete with supermarkets for a licence, which leads to a price tag of tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds for a licence to open a new pub.
The legislation updates alcohol licensing laws to extend pub opening hours, including at Easter, as well as creating a new category of licence for local alcoholic drinks producers.
But whilst the plans would allow local brewers to sell online for the first time, run a brewery tour and sell at some markets and events, it would explicitly ban the sale of their own beer on their premises.
Modernising licensing laws formed part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement when the Assembly was restored last year.
Commenting after the Communities Committee meeting, Tom Stainer said:
“With local breweries unable to get their beers on tap in most pubs, consumers just don’t have a choice if they want to support small, local and independent businesses instead of the big multinational brewers.
“Changing the law to allow breweries to get a liquor licence is welcome – but this new system needs to be fit for purpose so businesses can expand, employ more people and create great experiences for customers.
“As well as allowing all local pubs to sell the beer and local brands they want to, it is vital that local breweries and cider makers can open permanent taprooms where they can serve their own brews directly to locals and tourists alike.”
Chair of CAMRA NI Ruth Sloan commented:
“Our licensing laws shouldn’t just benefit massive global breweries who dominate most pubs here. We must allow our small, local brewers to expand and thrive so that we can get access to distinctive, tasty, locally produced brews.
“Local drinks producers need a level playing field to enable them to sell their beers in taprooms, as is the norm in the rest of the UK. I hope MLAs will support a small change to this new law to allow brewery taprooms, so Northern Ireland’s beer scene can catch up with the rest of the UK and Ireland, where local breweries are going from strength to strength.”