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Guinness launches helpline for counselling & finance advice

From left, Mark Mulholland, Diageo NI and Paul O’Hare, general manager & director Duke of York.

Guinness is today announcing the establishment of the Raising the Bar Helpline, a dedicated freephone support phoneline for pub owners in Northern Ireland, their staff and their immediate families affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

The service will be available from tomorrow, November 6, and is being financed as part of the €14m Raising the Bar fund established by Guinness this summer.

The helpline will be staffed by a team of counsellors, as well as local finance experts, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. To ensure that calls continue to be answered, even out of hours, there are counsellors available to take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ensuring that contact can be made at any time and any relevant follow up scheduled. All contact details for the helpline are available now on www.MyDiageo.com

Guinness is launching the Raising the Bar Helpline to provide support to callers who are struggling as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic by providing emotional counselling and information regarding financial supports available to them.

The financial impact of Covid-19 pub closures has been hugely significant, with wet-led pubs in Northern Ireland allowed to open for only 4 out of the last 35 weeks after enduring several delays to reopening over the course of the summer. With around 1,200 pubs located across Northern Ireland, all were forced to close again on Friday 16th October and will remain closed until November 13.

Pre Covid-19 crisis, the hospitality sectors in Northern Ireland sustained 65,435 jobs and provided £899m in wages. Hospitality Ulster research* indicates that total job losses (direct, indirect and induced) within the hospitality industry at the ‘four-week point’ since closure is in the region of 15,000, accounting for an estimated loss in wages to the Northern Ireland economy of £211m.

However, the true cost of this crisis cannot be measured in financial terms alone, and our partners in the pub trade have spoken openly of the heartbreak and pressure they have faced not only due to the stop-start nature of closures, but also the prolonged period of loneliness they have faced being out of work and away from the customers they interact with on a daily basis.

“During this difficult time, we know that publicans and their staff are worried, anxious and in need of practical measures to help them emerge from lockdown,” said Liam Reid, corporate relations director of Diageo Ireland. “Guinness is committed to working with our partners in Hospitality Ulster, LVA and VFI to identify key areas where we can support all those in the sector who continue to be hardest hit as an industry by the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The hospitality industry plays an essential role in both economies and the impact of Covid-19 is putting a staggering 114,000 jobs at risk in the sector, equalling a massive 7.6% of Ireland’s total workforce.”

This initiative is being financed by the €14m Raising the Bar recovery fund for pubs across the island of Ireland affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is part of a Diageo (maker of Guinness) global programme of $100 million to support pubs and bars and provide them with targeted support to ensure they can eventually re-open and welcome back customers safely.

Colin Neill, CEO of Hospitality Ulster, said: “Publicans in Northern Ireland have now faced almost eight months of continuous closures and rolling lockdowns as we deal with the Covid-19 crisis, putting enormous pressure on them and their families.

“We have sought support from both our suppliers and Government, and we welcome the further invaluable, practical measures that Guinness are announcing today as part of their Raising the Bar platform.

“The Raising the Bar Helpline will be an invaluable resource for our members as they deal with the untold burdens being placed on them due to the disproportionate financial, mental and emotional effects that this crisis has had on those in the pub sector.”

Almost 5,000 outlets across the island of Ireland have already registered and availed of supports from the Guinness Raising the Bar fund since its launch in June 2020 including over 3000 outlets who have received reopening essentials kits, with upwards of 87,500 litres of hand sanitiser and 30,000 staff uniforms.

The fund has also provided 700 outlets with items to create safe, weather-proof, outdoor spaces and sponsored mandatory compliance training for over 11,000 bar-staff.

Guinness Raising the Bar is a two-year programme that has been available since June 2020 and publicans across the Island of Ireland can still register to receive supports by logging on to www.mydiageo.com. All the information on the Raising the Bar Helpline, including the phone numbers, is available via www.mydiageo.com

*Source: Living & Working with Covid-19 – Creating a Covid Secure Hospitality Standard (NI)

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