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Non-food pubs need to reopen or receive financial support

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

Hospitality Ulster has given a stark warning that the NI Executive must take on the financial burden if it decides to keep traditional non-food serving pubs closed at its next meeting later this week.

As fears grow that the start of September indicative date may not be met for reopening, Hospitality Ulster has directly asked ministers to make the right call and bring forward financial support for those they may keep closed, despite the rest of the sector being able to open its doors some two months ago.

Traditional pub owners remain baffled as to why pubs serving food can open, but those which don’t have to remain shut.

Hospitality Ulster has said that this has gone on far too long with many haemorrhaging around a thousand pounds per week without any money coming in or support from the government.

“Our traditional pubs have now been closed longer than most businesses and two months longer than their counterparts in our hotels, restaurants and food pubs,” said Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster. “Two months without any additional financial support, two months with outgoing bills costing around £1,000 per week for an average pub, with no income at all.

“A significant proportion of the hospitality industry is already open and the vast majority of them have taken every step possible to reduce the spread of the virus. Indeed, we are unaware of any spike caused by these premises- reinforcing the evidence that our industry, including out traditional pubs, can operate safely.

“The vast majority of traditional non-food pubs consist of small family run businesses which have served their communities for generations. These are not wealthy people, they do not have access to financial reserves, but they are hardworking and only want to be given that same opportunity as the rest of the industry.

“Delaying the reopening date again will rip the heart from their chests and remove what little hope they still have.

“We are calling on the Executive to let them reopen and individually demonstrate that they can operate safely. As stated before, we also want to see an increase in the powers of enforcement to tackle the rogue premises, and in so doing reward people who have done the right thing at an already considerable personal cost.

“If the NI Executive decides that our traditional non-food pubs must make a sacrifice for the good of wider community, then they must recognise that sacrifice and immediately step in with financial support until they are allowed to reopen and earn a living. Or an entire sector will be wiped out and good, decent hardworking people will lose everything.”

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