Hospitality Ulster calls for clarity on bar closures

26th November, 2020 by Owen Bellwood

Trade body Hospitality Ulster is demanding ‘definitive clarity’ regarding the closure of the on-trade ahead of a two-week lockdown in Northern Ireland that will come into force tomorrow.

Northern Ireland will enforce a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

From 27 November, Northern Ireland (NI) will enter a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown period, which will force all hospitality businesses to close, except for takeaway and delivery.

The restrictions will be in force until 11 December in an attempt to “slow the spread of coronavirus in the community and protect the health service”.

However, after analysis by professor Lucy Yardley, a member of Sage, suggested that “pubs are a safer environment than private homes”, trade body Hospitality Ulster is calling on lawmakers in Northern Ireland to “take this scientific viewpoint on board”.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “This is an extremely important part of the year for a number of reasons, but even more so this year as business owners fight to save jobs and their businesses and reduce their crippling losses in the very short pre-Christmas trading period if it comes.

“The hospitality sector has suffered immensely this year and the opportunity to be open and doing what they do best over Christmas would bring both a much needed morale boost and ease some of the financial pressures.

“Hospitality businesses do not want to be reliant on financial support and would much rather be allowed to reopen safely without unnecessary restrictions in a way that allows them to provide for their families and staff.

“Analysis by professor Lucy Yardley, a member of Sage, which stated that pubs are a safer environment than private homes should be considered by the NI executive closely in the coming days.”

Neill also criticised measures announced this week by the UK government that allow three households to form a ‘bubble’ over a five-day period from 22 to 28 December.

Neill said that a decision not to extend the three-household limit to on-trade venues during the period could mean “some businesses won’t even be able to reopen”.

He added: “If the executive decides to make the unfortunate call to continue with the lockdown over Christmas period they must make this decision now instead of the eleventh hour. We’ve been in situations in the last few months when decisions have been made way too late, which causes huge confusion and additional financial losses within the sector. This simply cannot happen again.

“Christmas should be a time of hope and we are in the process of writing to the first and deputy first minister to make sure that they give us the clarity and hope that we are seeking.”

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