Northern Ireland news

Stormont move to ban pubs without off-sales on site doing take-away branded 'completely unfair'

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, described a move by Stormont to ban pubs without off-sales on site offering a takeaway service as "completely unfair"
Marie Louise McConville

A MOVE by Stormont to ban pubs without off-sales from offering a takeaway service has been branded "completely unfair".

Hospitality Ulster said the decision, which is part of the latest Covid-19 restrictions, needed to be "reviewed straight away".

The hospitality body said pubs without off-licences on site could still offer take-away "as part of their existing pub licence" and therefore should be allowed to, alongside other pubs with designated off-sales, standalone off-sales and supermarkets.

The organisation said many pubs who may have had an opportunity to keep on one or two members of staff in a job servicing off-sales from the pub, had now been disadvantaged, even though others can open.

Hospitality Ulster also claimed that the the closure of the hospitality sector and pub off-sales at 8pm meant there had been a huge spike in the number of dial-a-drink operators.

The organisation's chief executive Colin Neill said he "simply couldn’t believe it" when the latest rule was announced.

"This provided hope and a lifeline to some who were under the impression that they could keep, even a couple of staff, working and earning a wage during this awful period for the sector," he said.

"Instead of creating some sort of level playing field, people can just go to other off-licences or supermarkets before a particular time and spend their money there. We need this section of the lockdown regulations reviewed straight away, as it doesn’t make sense and is completely unfair."

Mr Neill also claimed there was a significant increase in the number of people operating dial-a-drink services.

"It’s hard to stomach when those in the hospitality sector who have worked night and day to create a safe environment prior to being locked down see adverts on social media promoting these types of services to people who are clearly having house parties, whilst law-abiding people can’t buy a bottle wine or a few beers after 8pm and can’t get it from their local pub at all," he said.

"It’s soul destroying for those who have had to lay staff off or are at risk of losing their businesses.

"The Executive Office cannot allow this to happen".

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