Nightclubs look set to be allowed stay open later and Sunday pub opening hours will be extended under a plan by the Minister for Justice to reform the alcohol licensing laws.

The changes will form part of Government's efforts to boost the hospitality sector's recovery when the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted later this year.

The plan would also make it easier for for cultural venues such as theatres, galleries and exhibition centres to get licences.

The nightclub sector has argued that longer opening hours are essential for financial viability and to better serve tourists. 

The Minister for Justice will now examine opening hours in this context.

"This is about revitalising these vital industries and preparing for life after Covid, when our cultural and hospitality sectors can flourish again," Minister Helen McEntee said.

The plan will also look at staggered and extended closing times for pubs and nightclubs.

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Yesterday the Taoiseach said it would be mid-summer before the Government give consideration to the reopening of hospitality.

Speaking to RTÉ's Raidió na Gaeltachta Micheál Martin said "any easing of the restrictions has to be slow and cautious because of the threat from new variants of the disease."

The announcement was criticised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, with Chief Executive Adrian Cummins saying in a statement that the move will leave restaurants and hospitality businesses "closer to financial ruin and meltdown". 

Mr Cummins also said the Government needs to clarify if "mid-summer" for reopening is the start of June or the start of July in order to allow businesses to plan.