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Beannchor Group announces temporary closures and lay-offs

Bill Wolsey, MD, Beannchor.

The Beannchor Group has announced the temporary layoff of up to 800 staff and the temporary closure of most of its portfolio of bars and hotels.

The Dirty Onion and Yard Bird, The National, sixty6, Bullitt Belfast, The Ulster Sports Club and the Park Avenue Hotel will close with immediate effect.

The Group’s flagship hotel, the Merchant Hotel will remain open, with a significantly scaled back offering to ensure adherence to current health and safety guidance in relation to social distancing due to Covid-19.

Little Wing Pizzeria’s nine restaurants across Northern Ireland will remain open, with increased social distancing protocols in place and an enhanced takeaway operation being introduced. The Hillside in Hillsborough will also remain open, with additional social distancing measures in place.

All venues that will remain open are practicing the very highest health, safety and hygiene standards, which have been rigorously reviewed in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Never in 43 years of business have I seen a crisis like this one, nor faced a decision like this,” said Bill Wolsey, managing director, Beannchor. “This has been an emotional and extremely tough decision but if we do not act now, we will not have a business to return to. We have made this decision because we feel we have to act responsibly in the best longer-term interests of the group and its staff.

“We waited for as long as we could to see what support might be available from the government but the so called ‘support package’ announced by the Prime Minister and Chancellor this evening is absolutely no support at all. They are offering loans, which will only serve to build up more debt and they are providing absolutely no support to our staff, which is our key priority. Meanwhile, other countries in Europe are rallying to help businesses and staff in their vital industries to weather this storm. It’s absolutely abysmal.

“This is a terrible blow for our people who have made this group the success story it has become and we will be doing all that we can to support them in the coming weeks.”

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “This shows the critical nature that the hospitality sector is now in, here.

“Even some of the biggest employers are having to take drastic measures – no business is too big not to feel the negative impacts of COVID19. They are all in a precarious position.”

“Beannchor Group, one of our biggest and best hospitality sector employers, will have looked long and hard before taking this difficult decision in an attempt to try and get through this very difficult period.”

“There has been many other small businesses laying off staff in the last few days and I only dread to think of what is truly ahead of us if the NI Executive doesn’t bring forward an industry specific rescue package soon.”

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