Deanes at Queen's cancels bookings after being told terrace does not comply with Covid regulations
A south Belfast restaurant has cancelled its bookings after being told that its terrace does not comply with Covid regulations.
Deanes at Queen's, located on College Gardens, has emailed customers to tell them they cannot honour their bookings.
Speaking on the Nolan Show, owner Michael Deane, who runs several restaurants in Belfast including Deanes EIPIC on Howard Street, said he was told by Belfast City Council that his electronic sliding roof violated Covid regulations and if used he would be fined.
The legislation is based on the 2007 Smoking Act, and the council have said that his terrace is "too closed over" and he would have to remove all the glass panels and not use the sliding roof.
Mr Deane said: "Because of the doors at the back where the staff come out they say the business is too closed over. We have to take all the glass panels out of the front, or leave the roof back so we were exposed to all weather, all rain.
"If the rain was to come down, I asked the city council if we could close the roof over for maybe two minutes to save the public, save their food and keep their experience going, the council said no.
"I wish they had of told us this three or four weeks ago when we asked for compliance, we don’t want to break the law, we don’t want heavy fines."
In a statement Belfast City Council said it was "committed to supporting as many city businesses as possible to reopen within the current legislation".
The council said that throughout the past year it had provided support and advice to businesses in relation to the regulations set out by the NI Executive, adding that the relaxations which were put in place to allow premises to reopen last summer were different to those which have now come into force.
"Last summer, Belfast City Council swiftly introduced pavement café licences to assist businesses to be able to operate outdoors.
"Under NI Executive Coronavirus Regulations, indoor and outdoor space is defined in accordance with smoking legislation which has been in place since 2007. Whilst this definition has been in place since the regulations were introduced, the legislative restrictions on when and how hospitality can operate has been subject to significant and constant change since then and the relaxations which were put in place last year are different to those coming into force.
"Essentially the key difference is that the focus of the previous regulations (that applied last summer) was on whether hospitality could be open at all and if so whether they could serve food and drink on their premises. Therefore we were not required to consider if any outdoor hospitality space met the 'outdoors' criteria unless it was to be used for smoking. In the latest regulations the focus now is on allowing hospitality to operate outdoors.
"Council officers did engage with The Executive Office to advocate a different approach to the current set of regulations but ultimately this was TEO’s decision. Council has a statutory obligation to ensure compliance within the Coronavirus Regulations, which are set by the NI Executive, not councils."
The council said it would work to address business owners' concerns.
"Now that the latest regulations are in place, we are also writing to businesses, alongside our face-to-face visits, to clarify how the latest regulations impact on them, and to ensure they have all the information they need to provide a safe environment for their staff and customers."
Advice from the council is available via its phone line 028 9027 0565 or by emailing email@example.com