CHRISTMAS has come early for pubs and clubs in Inverclyde with a bumper extension to the 2019 festive opening hours.

The local licensing board has voted unanimously in favour of the annual relaxing of the rules throughout December and the start of January so that traders and residents can make the most of the party season.

Pubs will be allowed to stay open until 1am Sunday-Wednesday and 2am Thursday-Saturday, while nightclubs have the option to continue the party until 2am and 3.30am, respectively.

The later opening times will also be applicable for each on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Hogmanay and New Year's Day.

The proposed end date for the festive extensions was scheduled to be Wednesday January 2 but Greenock councillor, Jim McEleny, requested a continuation until the first weekend of 2020.

Mr McEleny said: "I would like to put forward an amendment to include the Friday and Saturday because locally the festive period will run to the weekend and a lot of people will still be off until the Friday."

Members of the licensing board voted unanimously in favour of the extra extension as they approved the festive opening hours policy at a meeting in the council chambers.

The usual midnight curfew will also be relaxed until 1am on January 1 for those heading out on Hogmanay after 'the bells'.

Premises do not need to apply for extended festive opening hours, unless a specific event is being held, but pubs and clubs wishing to take advantage of them must notify the police and they are being urged to do so as soon as possible and before November 28.

Licensing board chairman, Ronnie Ahlfeld, said: "I'm happy to move the policy as amended.

"The board has asked me to make it clear that those who wish to have an extension to let us know sooner rather than later."

It is the third year in a row the licensing board has agreed a blanket festive opening hours policy.

Licence holders are asked to email to advise which dates they will operate an extension.