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Hospitality Ulster urges NI executive to create ‘financial rescue package’

Trade body Hospitality Ulster has called on the Northern Ireland executive to create a “financial rescue package” for staff and owners of traditional non-food pubs to avert mass redundancies and business closures as a new indicative date for reopening moves to 1 September. 

The organisation has stated that the call not to reopen traditional non-food pubs is a decision that deprives people of the right to earn a living. 

It said that the executive’s responsibility to step in with a financial rescue package for staff and business owners or be held to account for job losses as many are faced with financial ruin with the opening date kicked down the road.  

Hotels, restaurants, and pubs serving food have been operating safely since 3 July, whilst responsible non-food pubs have obeyed the rules and remained closed without an income and without any additional financial support from the executive, according to the union.

It said these businesses have been “hanging on by their fingernails” and as the job retention scheme now requires employers to contribute, the decision to keep them closed leaves them with no choice but to make staff redundant. Many of the pubs will never reopen their doors.

Colin Neill, CEO, Hospitality Ulster said: “It is devastating news that the reopening of traditional non-food pubs has been pushed back, despite the rest of the hospitality sector reopening safely, albeit at reduced capacity. 

“The safety measures agreed by the government and implemented by our members will help to reduce the spread of the virus, not the pie and chips you are currently required to have with your pint. Non-food pubs can operate under the same safety measures as food-let premises.”

He added: “If the executive are concerned about compliance, they should, as we have repeatedly suggested, take the powers to close anyone that blatantly ignores the guidance – not keep everyone closed, just in case. Some people speed, but we don’t stop everyone else from driving.”

The news comes as over a third of pubs in the UK have failed to break even after their first month of reopening, the British Beer and Pub Association has reported.

The latest data comes from a survey of its members that was conducted exactly a month after pubs were allowed to reopen on 4 July. 

While 37% of pubs failed to break even, a further 25% of brewing and pub sector businesses said they “didn’t feel their business was sustainable” beyond the end of March 2021.

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