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Rescue package urgently sought for NI hospitality crisis

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

A further two-week lockdown of the hospitality sector from November 27, the date it was scheduled to reopen after the current six-week closure, has prompted urgent calls for a rescue package to save the sector from decimation.

The Northern Ireland Executive announced the additional two-week restrictions, which also include a closure of non-essential retail, last night. Unlicensed premises such as cafes and coffee shops may reopen today as planned but will need to close again for two weeks from next Friday.

“A reopening date is now irrelevant, it’s now about a rescue package,” said Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

“65,000 people in the hospitality industry are now looking to the Executive tonight to save their jobs and livelihoods. This is no longer about a date, this is now about a multi-million pound emergency rescue package. The sector now faces disaster.

“All trust in the Executive by the hospitality sector has been wiped away. We were told that Christmas trading would be saved, that is now gone. There is a huge amount of anger right across the hospitality industry. We have been left with left with no trade, no hope and a huge amount of redundancies on our hands.

“The government now has the ultimate responsibility for funding this extended enforced lockdown and not at some paltry level, but an actual financial package that proves that the Government wants to save jobs. So far we have had no indication that this is the case.

“We now expect to meet with the Health Minister, Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser tomorrow for an urgent meeting with the hospitality industry steering group to start the process of working a way out of this awful situation.”

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