Retailers believe the consultation takes them one step closer to licensing deregulation, which could mean many more c-stores getting permission to sell alcohol.
Under the current system there is a limited number of licences available with only 2,000 covering both bars and off-licences. New licences are not granted without the surrender of an existing one.
But as part of a wide-reaching government review it has been proposed that the surrender provision be removed, enabling all retailers to apply for a licence to sell alcohol.
Bryan Gray, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said he had enjoyed a “very positive” meeting with Northern Ireland Office minister David Hanson.
If approved the changes to the law would come into force next year.