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Hospitality Ulster pushes for 11.30pm pubs closing time

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

Additional Covid-19 restrictions proposed for the local hospitality sector, around live music and a 10pm curfew, have been met with dismay by Hospitality Ulster.

The organisation has said the proposals, tabled by the Executive at the 11th hour and without consultation, will disappoint everyone in the sector.

“We are continuing to engage with the Executive Office on these proposals, including to close premises early,” said Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster. “If this is deemed necessary, we believe that Northern Ireland should align with the closing time of 11.30pm in the Republic of Ireland. To avoid confusion and for parity, the same should apply across the border.

“Previously when live music and late nights were cited as high-risk areas and there was a lack of any enforceable regulations, we ourselves raised the option of early closure and banning music to address the risks. But since then, The Executive Office has engaged with the industry and developed the most comprehensive range of legally enforceable regulations anywhere in the UK.

“In partnership with the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, we had put forward proposals that we believed could safely deliver live acoustic music in public areas, along with risk assessed amplified live music for private functions and ticketed performances. We will continue to engage on this issue in the coming days and weeks and support the calls made by the Music Venue Trust.

“With additional restrictions comes the need for additional support. The proposal to ban live music will have a severe financial impact and is ultimately likely to encourage more people to party in houses.

“The past six months have been incredibly challenging for those in the hospitality sector and it seems that it is going to get even more challenging. With the furlough scheme due to end at the end of October, the UK Government must now step forward and extend this scheme to protect the thousands that will be affected. In addition, with trading now set to be limited even further, additional financial support for employees and businesses must also be forthcoming.”

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