Colin Neill: Changes to licensing laws heralds a new type of Easter for hospitality
THIS April will see the first Easter holiday since the introduction of the new modern liquor licensing legislation. With it will come the updating of the outdated restricted hours of the past and will allow hospitality business owners to plan for new opportunities.
For around a decade, the hospitality sector was at the front and centre of the campaign to reform the liquor licensing laws which were so outdated that they were having a detrimental impact on trade, placing the entire industry here at a distinct disadvantage.
For years there has been a question mark over the Easter period and what was allowed and not allowed. Customers and tourists voted with their feet and made plans for elsewhere.
The new laws, which will be fully implemented in April, will be a significant step forward for every hospitality business and will hopefully add a spring to the step for an industry which is still working under immense pressure and pushing forward in its rebuilding and revitalisation.
Previously, the hospitality sector was always running at a loss to the tune of millions of pounds around the Easter period as trade and tourism opportunities were lost due to laws that were not compatible with modern life. This was extremely challenging for the industry who felt that they were being sold short.
The hope is that the new laws will bring greater opportunity to attract more tourists and visitors to our shores as we begin to compete in the international marketplace once again.
The new, up-to-date laws mean that our premises are now on par with their counterparts across Europe, putting us on equal footing and allowing the industry to really push forward with the tourism agenda, much of which centres around our food and drink offer.
Later licensing hours will also give local customers more options and choice when enjoying the night-time economy, which in turn may encourage more to become reacquainted with local hospitality as it reopens and begins to expand its offer once again.
This Easter will allow our bars, restaurants and hotels to really showcase the very best of the hospitality sector, breathing new life into the industry and paving the way for a successful period which normally focuses on the family.
We look forward to seeing the results of the hard-won campaign.
:: Colin Neill is chief executive of Hospitality Ulster