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Hospitality Ulster says financial support is essential if reopening date is not forthcoming for pubs

Hospitality Ulster has expressed deep frustration at the Northern Ireland Executive’s failure to provide a date for the reopening of ‘wet only’ pubs and called on it to provide essential financial assistance.

Traditional pubs or ‘wet only’ pubs as they as more commonly known, which focus on the sale of alcohol, have been left in the lurch with many publicans angry that they can’t at least get a target date to open their doors under industry guidelines.

Despite restaurants, hotels and beer gardens opening in Northern Ireland on Friday 3 July, England fully open, and dates provided for the reopening of the remainder of the industry in the Republic of Ireland and Scotland in July, the NI Executive has failed to follow suit.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said: “Our wet only pubs needed a date for reopening last week and it is hugely frustrating that another Executive meeting has passed without clarity on this issue. We are calling on Ministers to provide a reopening date or financial assistance now. Without this, businesses will go under, resulting in thousands of staff having to be made redundant. Nobody wants this to be the case, but without urgent action it will simply be unavoidable.”

“This weekend past, our restaurants, hotels and beer gardens were reopened in a safe and controlled manner – there is absolutely no reason why our pubs which serve pints cannot do the same. If the NI Executive is concerned that some may ignore social distancing, then they should give the date with strong enforcement powers attached. It is simply unfair to keep them all closed, rather than close individual premises that ignore the safety procedures.”

“After almost four months of closure, these businesses are simply desperate to reopen. Four months of rent, bills and overheads, plus the added requirement of contributing to the furlough scheme at the end of this month despite no income and minimal grant support, paints a very bleak picture.”

“Many families rely on these businesses to put bread on the kitchen table. Our local communities rely on them to keep the heart of the community beating. Yet, these businesses feel let down and left behind as others embark on their recovery plans. After weeks of false hope, our Executive must now show confidence in our pubs by providing a much needed reopening date. If this is not possible, then they must provide immediate financial support to sustain them in the difficult days and weeks ahead.”