New indicative date for 'wet pubs' welcomed by the hospitality industry

Wet pubs in the north have been closed for six months. 
Ryan McAleer

THE decision to allow ‘wet pubs’ in Northern Ireland to open alongside premises in the Republic on September 21 has been welcomed by the drinks industry.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill announced the new indicative date on Thursday alongside the confirmation that soft play businesses can reopen from September 14.

But new localised coronavirus restrictions are to be introduced around home and social gatherings in Belfast and Ballymena.

Ms Foster spoke of “specific geographical regions which have concerning levels of community transmission” during Thursday’s press conference.

"At the moment, the villain is not business, where customers' behaviours are regulated,” she said.

"It is in the home, in our homes, it is the house party, it is the dinner party, it is the few people coming around for drinks or coffee.

"So complacency is our enemy and it cost lives and therefore today it is important that we say to you that compliance is all important."

Pubs that serve food have been open since the start of July.

Chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill said the new indicative date for ‘wet-led’ pubs represents “a lifeline” for businesses forced to remain closed for the past six months.

“Securing an indicative date will provide hope that has been sadly missing of late, and will help secure hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs that have been hanging in the balance,” he said.

Hospitality Ulster said it had provided assurances and offered suggestions on enforceable measures for the protection of public health and staff.

“We can see from the reopening of other parts of the sector since the start of July that the vast majority of the hospitality industry is taking this very seriously,” added Mr Neill.

“They want to be open, trading and welcoming back customers, not being over reliant on government.

“We have to also remember that we have been given an indicative timeframe previously and we must encourage the Executive to hold steady in getting us to the new date less than two weeks away,” he continued.

“Any further delay, without a critical financial aid package, will be catastrophic.

“We also must acknowledge that other parts of the hospitality sector still need assistance such as music and event venues and outdoor event spaces. They themselves support a whole host of performers in the arts and cultural sector for example and it is just as important that we get these places back on their feet again.”

The PSNI have issued at least 35 prohibition notices on licensed premises in Northern Ireland to date for breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Chief executive of Belfast Chamber, Simon Hamilton, welcomed Ms Foster’s comments on businesses.

“Whilst we appreciate that imposing restrictions on gatherings in home settings was necessary given the evidence before the Executive, Belfast Chamber members have behaved responsibly throughout this crisis, prioritising staff and customer safety and that will resolutely remain the case as we work collectively to ensure a safe environment for everyone who lives, works and visits our city,” he said.

“We welcome the Executive’s granting of an indicative date for the reopening of traditional non-food pubs. 

“These pubs have been closed for 6 months and any initial financial support they received has long since run out.

“Belfast Chamber knows that traditional non-food pubs are able to open in a safe way and hopes that this date is adhered to and that they can reopen and start trading again from September 21.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access