Derry pubs, cafés and restaurants should be allowed to serve indoors from next Monday, says Hospitality Ulster boss Colin Neill

The hospitality lobby wants the Executive to allow Derry's bars, cafés and restaurants to be allowed to resume indoor service from next Monday.
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Colin Neill Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster, has encouraged the Executive to consider bringing forward the reopening date for the entire hospitality sector to May 17, when it reviews the roadmap to recovery timetable this Thursday.

Under the current roadmap out of lockdown indoor dining and drinking is due to resume on May 24.

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Mr. Neill also said the ‘Rule of 6’ and a review of the 2m/1m+ social distancing rules must be considered as a priority as a new survey carried out by market measurement, data and research consultancy CGA in association with Hospitality Ulster has shown that 1 in 3 businesses in the hospitality sector would not be able to cover costs or be viable under 2m or 1m+ social distancing rules.

The hospitality lobby wants the date for reopening to be brought forward.The hospitality lobby wants the date for reopening to be brought forward.
The hospitality lobby wants the date for reopening to be brought forward.

The survey, carried out in April also showed that 4 in 5 operators believed they won’t return to profit until 2022 or later, leaving 1 in 5 unviable before 2022 under current conditions.

Mr. Neill said: “The hospitality sector needs to reopen now and has been working towards this phase for some time with track and trace systems in place and COVID secure environments as standard. There is also clear demand from customers, so we need to see the Executive be responsive to that for the sector to benefit after an awful year.”

“As we move forward, our Executive and those in charge of setting the rules and guidelines on how we reopen, must consider the implications of the decisions they are making on the businesses that make up the hospitality sector. Although Northern Ireland now has a reopening roadmap for hospitality, it still lags behind that of the other 3 nations, both for outdoor and indoor trading.

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“Reopening hospitality with restrictions that are economically unstainable is reopening in name only. With England already using the ‘rule of 6’ for table numbers and a scientific report on social distancing due in June, the Executive must now look to the end of social distancing in Northern Ireland.

“If the same level of restrictions and social distancing continue here, despite what the evidence is showing, then the Executive must step in and provide compensation or hospitality businesses will not survive.”

Ted Mulcauley, CGA Senior Insights Consultant added: “Research across the UK shows that Northern Ireland lags behind in terms of moving through the phases of its reopening roadmap. Our latest survey shows there remains a level of pessimism about the viability of businesses in hospitality and that casualties will occur if elements such as social distancing and household numbers aren’t changed.”

“It’s clear that even though the sector in Northern Ireland is slowly beginning to reopen, a return to profitability is some way off in the minds of those operators who responded to the survey and could take more than a year of hard work before they see any benefit.”

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“Looking at CGA’s Northern Ireland On Premise Measurement Service, we see for example, On Premise beer sales alone fell £199m in 2020 (vs 2019), equivalent to a drop of -63%. This highlights the devastating financial impact of COVID-19 related trading restrictions, and the need to return to normal trading conditions as soon as possible.”

“With progress being made in other parts of the UK, there is an argument to be made that Northern Ireland could accelerate the reopening of the entire hospitality sector."