Easter licensing laws ‘cost sector £16m'
NORTHERN Ireland's hospitality sector will lose out to the tune of £16 million due to the north's archaic licensing laws, according to the industry's trade body.
Hospitality Ulster carried out a snapshot survey of its members to gauge the impact of the laws which restrict opening hours over the Easter period.
The survey, carried out with accountancy firm BDO Northern Ireland "demonstrates a significant loss of revenue across pubs, hotels and restaurants during the Easter weekend", the body said.
It found pubs would likely lose around £9,251 of trade, while hotels expect to lose £10,575 and restaurants, £3,859.
Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said the "level of anger about the restrictive trading hours over the Easter period is something that I have not witnessed in recent years".
"The industry is now at boiling point. There is anger about losing out on potential revenue; anger about losing trade to the Republic of Ireland in the border areas; and anger that the NI Assembly has left this issue hanging by not bringing forward the bill that would modernise liquor licensing here."
Although pubs, hotels and restaurants are banned from selling, alcohol during periods over the Easter weekend, the laws governing shops are more lenient.
"It’s a crazy situation when alcohol is still available to purchase in supermarkets and off-sales (with the exception of Easter Sunday) as early as 8am in the morning but not in a place that is safe and regulated – the pub," added Mr Neill.
BDO advisory partner Brian Murphy said it was "essential" the industry was given laws equivalent to those in the Republic "in order to compete as a tourist destination of choice".
"We believe that local government should seek to create conditions in which businesses can flourish and create job opportunities, instead our existing licensing laws appear to be restricting growth within this sector," he said.