18th March 2020

Dear Minister,

Re: Licensing laws – beer, pubs and Covid-19

We are writing on behalf of CAMRA NI, the Campaign for Real Ale, in relation to the beer and pubs industry and the challenges faced by Covid-19.

Local pubs are a vital part of communities and are key to our social fabric, helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation. It is essential that we help to protect them so that they can re-open and thrive after the Covid-19 crisis.

The loss of pubs will also impact local suppliers, many of whom are too small to survive a prolonged period of isolation. The restrictive licensing legislation under which small, local brewers and cider producers operate doesn’t allow them to find other routes to market.

We appreciate that other Executive departments have taken steps and are considering further steps in terms of financial support for these businesses.

However, we would ask that the Department for Communities considers emergency legislation on licensing to allow pubs, breweries and cider makers to be able to sell alcohol directly to the public to take away, as well as allowing brewers and cider producers to sell their products online.

There is a desire and determination from communities to help small, independent businesses like our brewers and cider makers through the crisis, as well as to continue to support well-run local pubs during periods of restrictions.

Pubs and brewers in Great Britain already have flexibility to sell beer directly to the public, and steps are being taken by the UK Government to allow food to be sold by pubs on a take away basis too. We believe it is vital for businesses here that licensing laws are changed to allow direct sales to the public as well as over the internet, if many of these local pubs and producers are to survive.

We would be happy to assist the Department in any way we can in relation to these issues in the coming days and weeks.

During this crucial time we trust we can count on your support for the beer and pub sectors and ensure that pubs, local brewers and cider makers can continue to thrive after the Covid-19 crisis.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,

Ruth Sloan
Chair – CAMRA NI