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GIVE US A DATE OR GIVE US A LIFELINE - Hospitality Ulster demands from NI Executive

Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster

Hospitality Ulster has called on the NI Executive to throw the industry a lifeline of urgent financial support if it cannot provide a date for the reopening of ‘traditional non-food’ (wet-led) pubs.

This call follows the decision last week to postpone the reopening of traditional non-food serving pubs without the provision of an alternative date or financial package to save the sector and rescue thousands of jobs.

With the Executive set to meet on Thursday, the drastic situation for traditional pubs has been exacerbated with many non-food serving publicans, staff, and their families uncertain about their future with increasing costs and the winding down of the furlough scheme imminent. The repeated plea comes as the government in the Republic of Ireland recognised at the weekend the need to provide assistance to these pubs who may be closed for longer than anticipated.

The sector has stated time and again that it is ready to open fully under guidance, with social distance measures in place and all health and hygiene rules stringently adhered to and is calling on the Executive to let them prove they can reopen successfully once and for all.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said:

“The news last week that our non-food serving pubs would not be allowed to reopen was a catastrophic blow to hard-working individuals right across Northern Ireland. On top of this, there was no recognition of the dire situation these individuals are in after an extended lengthy lockdown with bills rising on a weekly basis.”

“Many employees will have been paid through the furlough scheme for several months but with employers now required to contribute even more to this and no revenue coming in, the question has to be asked, how are these families expected to survive financially? Without urgent intervention, there is a real and growing risk that this vital part of the hospitality sector will be lost forever with livelihoods decimated.”

“We all know that the virus is going to be with us for some time to come, but we also know that thousands of pounds have already been spent implementing safety measures so that traditional non-food pubs can operate safely. There is no concrete evidence to support the continued closure of these businesses and we are calling on the Executive to address this.”

“The Christmas season is now on the horizon and is one of the most important times in the year for the entire hospitality industry. It is vital that hard working publicans and employees are given some hope for the future. If they are not given a new date, then their continued closure for the greater good must be recognised and a financial rescue package put in place immediately. The Executive must understand the pain and worry caused and take responsibility for the ongoing hardship caused.”