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Ballymena BID on Executive's ‘Pathway to Recovery’

(Front L-R) Stephen Reynolds, Chair of the Ballymena BID is pictured alongside Eugene Reid, Chamber President, Hugh Black, Tower Centre, (back left) and Andrew Storey, Manager Boots (back right)

Ballymena BID has welcomed the Northern Ireland Executive‘s ‘Pathway to Recovery’ as the country eases out of lockdown, but expresses disappointment over the lack of dates and detail.

Commenting on the publication of the Executive’s ‘Pathway to Recovery’, Ballymena Business Improvement District Chair, Stephen Reynolds, said:

“Ballymena BID welcomes the Executives much-anticipated roadmap to recovery which does give us an exit strategy out of lockdown. However, it is hugely disappointing that no dates or timelines were given, leaving business owners, and their staff in limbo.

“Whilst we understand the unenviable challenges facing the Executive, our members need to know dates to work towards in terms of retail and services, hospitality, tourism, entertainment and leisure, to enable us to forward plan, order stock, ensure we have the necessary funding in place and inform and recruit staff.

“We recently launched our own, Ballymena BID business plan road-map to recovery for the next five years, with clear objectives to help re-establish Ballymena as the number one shopping and hospitality town in Northern Ireland. We now need clear guidance from the Executive as to when we can start to implement these plans.

“As business owners on the ground, we know first-hand what this town needs and can work with those in positions of power to achieve it.

“This lack of clarity has led to much-frustration across the various business sectors and left many of our town’s business owners fearing whether they will even be able to open the doors again. Some businesses are already on the brink.

“We need to get staff, shoppers, locals and visitors back into Ballymena town centre to bring that buzz in an effort to secure the long-term economic future of our local economy. The same applies to every town across N. Ireland

“Without office workers, there is no coffee-shop trade. Without shoppers, there is no retail and little or no hospitality trade. Without tourism, we have none of the above. All of our industries work in synergy and we need to be able to work towards a date to getting people back into Ballymena.

“I personally feel that one of the most frustrating elements of the plan is the singling-out of our traditional non-food, (wet) pubs for extended closure. It really doesn’t make sense.

“As owner of The Front-Page Bar in the town for the past 31 years, I know only too well the struggles we have faced over the past 12 months.

“Our continued closure has had such a detrimental knock-on effect for our staff, our suppliers, our service providers and our regular customers…. many of whom live alone and rely on the social interaction they enjoy in our pub.

“We adhered to the guidelines previously with track and trace details, signage, screens, no sitting or standing at the bar, table service, reduced capacity, reduced hours, no live music, etc. We already have all of the necessary systems and procedures in place. I would encourage the Executive to review this element of the planned, phased reopening and permit our hospitality to reopen as a whole.

“Retailers, tourism and entertainment and services across the Ballymena BID area have also welcomed the plan but have been disappointed by the lack of dates.

Speaking about the published plans, Libis McAllister, owner of Ultimate in Fashion commented:

“We as a small independent retailer have suffered such a colossal drop in trade over the past twelve months, and as such, we very much welcome this plan.

“Whilst it is very cautious and lacking in dates, it still forecasts hope and an end is now in sight.

“I feel that baby steps are now needed to get us to the end stages as safely as possible. It is frustrating, however we must proceed forwards at a slow and measured pace, as we simply cannot afford to go back into another lockdown once we are out the other side.

“We know that the next step for us is ‘click and collect’, which is something we can now plan for and worked well for us in the last lockdown.

Libis concluded: “We look forward to getting back to business as soon as possible and working towards recovery for the entire town centre.”

There are over 430 businesses current Ballymena BID area spanning retail, professional services, hospitality, leisure and tourism, and the Ballymena BID has been representing them for close to 6 years.

Stephen concluded: “We, in Ballymena are proud to have a close-knit business community that work very well together for the common good of our town.

“We recently launched our Ballymena BID Business Plan document for 2021-2026 which includes a road-map to economic recovery as well as targeted goals to promote Ballymena as the number one retail and hospitality destination of choice in Northern Ireland.

“We are in the middle of our re-ballot and now more than ever we need everyone’s support.

“We need every single local business owner to work together in mutual support to help Ballymena rebuild and recover after such challenging economic times.

“Whilst we have no dates from the Executive, we do have an end in sight, and I’ve no doubt that there will be more challenges ahead as we navigate our way out of this pandemic. However, the future of the BID, and our ability to foster positive change in Ballymena, lies in the hands of local business owners and the ability to vote in favour of Ballymena BID for a second term.

"For a successful YES vote, we need over 25 per cent of eligible businesses to post their ballot papers to us and vote. 50 per cent of these votes must be in favour of the Ballymena BID Renewal Business Plan.

Stephen concluded: “We are calling on our local business community to support this important initiative. The postal voting process is now open and will close for votes on 30th March 2021. Make sure you have your voice heard and post your vote back as soon as possible. If for any reason you have not received your voting papers, please contact Emma at the BID Manager’s office."

For more information about the Ballymena BID please: Emma McCrea – Interim Manager, Ballymena BIDE:

E: bidsmanager@ballymenabid.com

M: 07885 440 296 or 07854 133 310

W: www.ballymenameans.com