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Covid surge 'hitting pubs and restaurants struggling with costs and staff shortages'

The Barking Dog restaurant on Malone Road in south Belfast

THE latest Covid surge is hitting pubs and restaurants already struggling with soaring costs and staff shortages, the chief executive of Hospitality Ulster has warned.

Colin Neill said although the coronavirus wave is affecting all industries, hospitality businesses have struggled to manage their staffing levels since the pandemic.

Mr Neill was speaking after a popular Belfast restaurant, the Barking Dog, announced it has had to close temporarily after several staff members contracted Covid-19.

"Since Covid we have been short of staff due to job uncertainty and all sorts of things," Mr Neill said.

"We are a people industry. We can't mechanise.

"You need a chef and if your chef's not there you can't open. There are definitely challenges for us.

"We're short of staff and all the costs are spiralling."

Restaurant businesses across the north are battling with rising fuel costs and soaring food prices.

Mr Neill said the challenges of living with Covid will continue to affect businesses.

"I heard people predicting that we'll see a wave every six months," he said.

"If that's true then we're going to have to try and find how we plot our way through it."

He said the most updated government advice, including reducing the self-isolation period to five days for adults who test positive for the virus, is "more practical".

But he said if several staff in a restaurant fall ill "we reach a point where we can't open".

Health minister Robin Swann announced the change in self-isolation rules last week, despite a rise in Covid cases across the north and Britain.

The Barking Dog Restaurant, based on Malone Road in the south of the city, said yesterday it has had to close temporarily after several staff members contracted Covid-19.

"Unfortunately a large portion of our team have been hit by Covid, which has left us severely short handed for the rest of the week," management said via social media.

"We have no other option than to close the restaurant until we have a full bill of health. We are currently in the process of contacting any reservations we had this week.

"We can’t apologise enough for what has happened, especially to those planning to celebrate their graduation with us.

"Stay safe folks, and we'll see you again soon."

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