Confusion as off-licences in north still stay shut

Gary McDonald Business Editor

STANDALONE off-licences will remain shut in Northern Ireland for the time being - despite them being added to list of essential businesses that can stay open in Britain during the current lockdown.

But the Executive is expected to make a ruling this morning that could bring the north in line with the Britain following its U-turn.

Off-licences were among the vast majority of non-essential retailers ordered to shut down as part of measures announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday to ease the burden on the NHS.

But yesterday they were exempted from the mass closures and were added to the list of shops allowed to stay open.

However, in an apparent governmental anomaly, the decision to allow them to open here has been batted back to the devolved administration at Stormont.

Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said: "There's a bit of confusion around it right now, but hopefully we'll get some clarity on Thursday."

Alcohol is still being sold at many retailers, including the likes of Tesco, Lidl and Asda, but chains like Winemark have had to shut.

However, some off-licences like The Vineyard on Belfast Ormeau Road say they are able to sell wines, beers and spirits via Deliveroo.

Other large independents like JN Wines and Direct Wine Shipments are awaiting official governmental direction, but say they will consider offering a delivery service, where customers can order by phone or online.

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