‘Biggest weekend since Christmas’ – NI bar owners hail impact of extended opening hours over Easter

The relaxation of Easter licensing laws has led to one of the busiest weekends of the year, bar owners said.

t was the first weekend of the season for caravan owners, staycationers went on holiday, as Belfast celebrated the end of the World Irish Dancing Championships and welcomed an influx of thirsty rugby fans for the Ulster game . Many nightclubs also opened for the first time on an Easter Saturday night.

This Easter marked the first time the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland has been able to take advantage of updated legislation, allowing businesses to remain open as normal over the public holiday period.

Previously, licensed establishments had limited hours for the sale of alcohol Thursday through Sunday over the Easter weekend.

Mark Edwards of Blakes of the Hollow in Enniskillen said it was a very busy weekend and the extended hours had a big impact.

He said: “It really felt like the start of the visitor season, with the caravans opening and stays. It was a very good atmosphere.

“The change in license hours absolutely made a difference, especially on Good Friday. With all the restrictions eased, it was a full day experience. We had live entertainment on Friday, which doesn’t happen. would not be produced before.”

Customers, including visitors arriving for the weekend, enjoyed the Good Friday atmosphere.

“It was probably the biggest weekend since Christmas. People lived the weekend as it should,” Mr Edwards said.

Peader O’Donnell’s on Waterloo Street in Derry opened its nightclub for the first time on an Easter Saturday. It was packed, said a staff member.

Belfast’s visitor numbers were boosted all week by the World Irish Dancing Championships, which took place at the Waterfront Hall and ended on Sunday.

It wouldn’t have been the same if the previous licensing hours had still been in place, said John Bittles of Bittles Bar on Upper Church Lane.

“There was a big difference,” he said, adding that relatives, parents and grandparents of World Irish Dancing Championship participants were able to end their week in style.

“It wouldn’t have been the same if the old licensing hours had been in place, especially on Friday,” he said.

“With an all-day opening on Friday it made a big difference, especially with Irish dancing. It was great for the city, everywhere was busy.

“If it was still the same old laws, with the Ulster rugby team, we would have closed when they came back from the pitch.”

Shuttles ran near the bar to the Kingspan, where Ulster hosted Toulouse in a play-off after the European season.

Mr Bittles added: “I have been in this business for 47 years and it has been a long time coming. It was definitely up there with one of the best weekends of the year. People even came on Friday because it was kind of history, everyone was out. It was a good old day, with a great atmosphere.

Willie Gregg, of Harbor Bar in Portrush, who saw Curry’s Fun Park open, said it was a fantastic weekend.

“It was a good Friday. It was different, a great trading day. It was big in the dining room and my end, the drinks end,” he said.

“Before, you were on your tiptoes at the weekend. You couldn’t even have a wine sauce or a Guinness pie. It all disappeared and it made a big difference. It’s very progressive. “

The famous publican praised Hospitality Ulster for its work in lobbying for change.

“It’s positive and now I can’t wait for the North West 200, which is just around the corner,” he added.

About James K. Bonnette

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