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Latest restrictions create unviable business model for hospitality

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

Hospitality Ulster has said that the updated interpretation of regulations around entertainment for groups of more than 15 people and social distancing mitigations are adding to the many challenges of an industry that is fighting for its survival.

With entertainment over dinner banned, and further reduced capacity, the updated interpretation means that many of our food pubs, restaurants and hotels that opened just a matter of days ago, are left in limbo, officially allowed to open, but with a business model that is not financially viable.

The latest blow comes at a time when traditional non-food serving pubs, which have been closed effectively since March, are crying out for support and need urgent financial aid to shore up bad debt to cover previous costs and outlay.

“We have been left in a position where many food pubs, restaurants and hotels are left with an unsustainable business model, but cannot afford to close,” said Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

“We urgently need the Executive to allow hospitality businesses to opt for closure and qualify for financial assistance where it is simply unsustainable to open due to the current Covid regulations.

“We are told that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but to the hospitality industry it’s more like a vertical mine shaft with no means of escape in sight.

“Our industry, our businesses and our people are beyond breaking point, our non-food pubs have been virtually closed since March, the rest of the industry has seen repeated lockdown and unsustainable regulations – they have borne the full force of the economic cost of the crisis.

“There needs to be a proper and appropriate level of funding that creates real impact for those who have had to experience the full brunt of the government attempts at curtailing the virus. Our sector has been the fall guy and it simply isn’t fair.

“Traditional pub owners haven’t been open for the majority of the year, other hospitality businesses that have been open have endured lengthy lockdowns and more extensive restrictions than any other sector.”

“With another lockdown of the entire hospitality industry almost a certainty after Christmas, it is once again obvious that jobs and businesses in the hospitality industry are being sacrificed as a balance for the uncontrollable, in this instance to allow increased socialising in private houses over Christmas. It is therefore only fair that the people that work and run businesses in hospitality should be fairly compensated.”

“The Executive must also bring forward a comprehensive plan to support the hospitality industry through the continued period of closure and restrictions, with pathway to reopening, supported by targeted financial support and a business rates holiday for 2021.”

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