The MLA for East Antrim was speaking after the DSD Minister announced plans to allow publicans to apply for an extension until 2am 12 times a year – rejecting calls for greater liberalisation of Northern Ireland’s licensing laws.
Describing the proposals as modest, Mr Dickson said there was room for alterations to be made during the legislative process.
Stewart Dickson MLA said: “I welcome the fact the Minister has actually brought forward proposals to alter laws governing the sale of alcohol in Northern Ireland. While the proposals are modest and not as radical as some would have hoped, the current laws are in need of an overhaul and today’s announcement starts that process.
“There is a real need to balance support for tourism, business and the enjoyment of locals against a backdrop of health issues and alcohol-related crime and there will be room to work further on achieving this balance throughout the legislative process.
“However one area of regret is that the Minister appears to have ignored the issue of special events. Provision must be made for upcoming events in Northern Ireland, including the future British Open, allowing local businesses to benefit from increased trade opportunities.
“As these proposals progress it is important we see greater harmonisation of liquor and entertainment licensing and especially further cooperation between the police, DSD and local Councils on regulation.”