Northern Irish trade group Hospitality Ulster has condemned the local government’s decision to keep traditional pubs closed, ahead of the county’s hospitality businesses reopening on Friday (11 December).
Earlier this month, government officials at Stormont confirmed that while restaurants and hotels that can serve a substantial meal will be able to reopen, pubs that cannot facilitate this requirement will have to remain shut.
Colin Neill, chief executive, of the union has hit back at this decision labeling it “simply unfair and unjust”. In a statement Neil said that this is nothing but “terrible news” for owners and staff in traditional pubs who have once again been “unfairly singled out to bear the brunt of the Covid lockdown for the greater good”.
Since 25 November, all Northern Irish hospitality businesses have been under a two week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in a bid to reduce the rate of Covid-19 infections ahead of the Christmas period. During this time restaurants have only been able to remain open for takeaway and delivery services.
Neil said: “Our traditional pubs have only been open for three weeks since March (2 weeks in Derry / Strabane) so they cannot be responsible for the spread of the virus. Despite that, the opportunity for them to trade and try and recoup a small amount of the massive losses they have suffered throughout this year has now been taken away.”
“We understand that the existing funding package for enforced closure will stay in place but it simply does not cover half of what is needed to keep a pub closed during this lockdown.”
He added: “Traditional pubs were closed throughout the summer with backdated financial support only announced last week. This decision will see the end of many of these business and business owners will have no other choice but to lay staff off in larger numbers.”
“The idea of a packed, sweaty pub with close contact is a dim distant memory and no longer exists and enduring Covid regulations have put an end to that. Food-led hospitality was open for months, without an increase in the R number and our traditional pubs can operate under the same strict regulations, ensuring a Covid-safe environment.”