'Antiquated' Easter alcohol laws costing north £16m a year
THE decision to allow pubs, hotels and restaurants in the Republic to sell alcohol on Good Friday leaves the north "even further behind" in the race to attract tourists at Easter, according to Hospitality Ulster.
The Dáil voted on Thursday to remove its Easter alcohol ban, which has been in place for 90 years and the call has come for Northern Ireland to follow suit.
Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill said the time was now to stop an estimated £16 million a year being lost to the economy through antiquated alcohol laws.
"The decision by the Irish parliament to allow pubs, restaurants and hotels to sell alcohol on Good Friday leaves Northern Ireland even further behind in the race to attract tourists at Easter, essentially the start of the tourist season, and also needlessly curbs our hospitality sector's ability to generate revenue at a key time of the year," he said.
"It is estimated that the current restrictions on licensing laws in Northern Ireland for pubs, restaurants and hotels at Easter time costs £16 million. That's £16 million that is used to pay wages and rates. Now, with this new law, we can be sure that the losses will far exceed that figure as tourists opt to stay south of the border over the Easter period and those from Northern Ireland who want to relax and enjoy the Easter holidays go to the Republic."
As the law stands the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland is restricted in selling alcohol across the long Easter weekend. This includes reduced opening hours from Maundy Thursday until Easter Sunday, while on Good Friday alcohol can only be sold between 5pm and 11pm.
Mr Neill believes this is a "ridiculous position" and the law must be brought into line with the Republic.
"Our tourism sector is already at a huge disadvantage with the south when it comes to tourism VAT rates. We need to make sure the gap is narrowed, not widened.
"We totally respect that Easter is an important period for many in Northern Ireland. But having a glass of wine with your lunch or a social pint of beer with your friends and family in a bar or restaurant is not disrespectful, nor does it take away from the importance of Easter."