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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Councillors express concerns over Mid and East Antrim hospitality closures

Mid and East Antrim councillors have sounded an urgent warning over the hospitality industry after two eateries were forced to close their doors due to lack of staff.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Borough Growth Committee on Monday evening, Coast Road Ulster Unionist Councillor Maureen Morrow said that government needs to intervene.

She stated that “tourism needs catering and needs accommodation”and voiced concern over a knock-on effect for other businesses in the area.

The restaurant at Billy Andy’s pub outside Larne is closed temporarily while the business continues its search for chefs and the bar remains open.

On Sunday evening, Billy Andy’s said on social media:

“We have managed to get one more chef to join the team, however, we are still looking for three to help us get back to normal and open seven days a week.”

Billy Andy’s has also stated:

“Our whole industry is in this mess caused by Covid and we know from five months of trying that our job adverts are just getting lost in the crowd.

“As of Sunday, September 19, we have no choice but to sadly close our doors for restaurant service.

“We have tried everything to prevent this from happening and been struggling to remain open for five months. Sadly hospitality has lost a huge percentage of its staff and we are down to a level now that is just not possible to deliver our product.

“Our success has always been built on our team both in the kitchen and on the restaurant floor. We are fortunate to have recruited, worked with and trained some fabulous people down the years. Sadly, so many over this year-and-a-half have chosen to pursue different careers.”

Last week, the Misty Burn in Glenwherry announced on social media that its cafe was to close after eight years but the shop will remain open.

A post said: “The last 18 months have been quite unlike any other. The global pandemic has had a massive impact on all our lives and unfortunately the hospitality sector has been hit particularly hard with a long road of recovery ahead.”

Recruitment and retention of staff in the hospitality sector will be highlighted at this year’s Hospitality Exchange 2021 which returns to Belfast next month.

The organisers say “addressing this long-standing issue will be crucial to the prosperity of the sector” and that the pandemic has “merely hastened and highlighted” staff shortages.

Cllr Morrow also told the committee meeting:

“Every effort has been made but we really need to appeal to government and see if there is anything that can be done. We are losing establishment after establishment within our borough.

“Well-established businesses with good reputations are not opening or have closed down because of a lack of staff.

“There must be chefs out there, there must be waiting staff, housekeeping. You can hardly go to any locality that is not looking for a list of staff as long as your arm.

“This whole area is based on tourism. Tourism needs catering and needs accommodation. If we lose that, it is not going to help other businesses either.”

Coast Road Alliance councillor Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna added:

“There is a real lack of skilled staff in the hospitality sector.”

She described Billy Andy’s restaurant as “one of the best restaurants in the whole borough” adding that she hoped the closure would be “just temporary”.


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