Hospitality Ulster issues hard-hitting rebuke of 'rogue' operators as coronavirus cases rise and re-opening of 'wet pubs' is jeopardised

A lobby group for the licensed trade has issued an extraordinary rebuke to 'rogue' operators within the industry who are flouting the COVID-19 lockdown rules and jeopardising the reopening of 'wet pubs' next month.
Colin Neill.Colin Neill.
Colin Neill.

With coronavirus infections on the rise in some parts of the island and the Belfast and Dublin administrations moving to reintroduce some lockdown restrictions Hospitality Ulster has called on the hospitality industry to treat all government guidance extremely seriously.

It has asked businesses to stop selling alcohol after 11pm and to suspend live music as these are identified as high-risk areas.

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In a hard-hitting statement Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster, called for enforcement powers to be brought in to tackle 'rogue premises.'

Although parts of the hospitality sector have opened safely from the start of July, traditional non-food serving pubs are still closed, with an indicative reopening date of September 1. T

Mr. Neill said that any irresponsible behaviour could drive a further increase in the virus and result in the entire sector being closed again.

“This is a black and white issue for the hospitality sector. As an industry we must do all we can to reduce the spread of the virus and limit irresponsible behaviour.

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"We are therefore calling on our industry to take all government guidance as instructions. We would also go further and ask licensed premises to stop serving alcohol at 11pm and stop all live music/DJs to help control the spread of this virus," he said.

Hundreds of traditional non-food pubs have still to reopen and if the coronavirus infection rate continues to rise a September reopening date is unlikely, said Mr. Neill.

This will increase an already significant financial risk with thousands of job losses forthcoming if the NI Executive doesn’t step in and provide support to halt a disaster, he declared.

“The vast majority of our industry have and continue to act responsibly, but we need urgent action by the NI Executive to reinforce our calls, with legal measures, as rogue businesses will just ignore these calls and undermine the actions of the responsible majority.”

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“The NI Executive must suspend all late liquor licences; suspend provision of music under entertainment licences; and introduce the power of closure for premises that blatantly ignore government guidance.”

“Our industry now needs to double-down in relation to adherence to the guidance. This turbulent period is a long way from being over and we have to remain steadfast in doing all we can to curtail the spread.”

“We certainly do not want to see the scenes that we did in the media from Dublin at the weekend. Whilst there are isolated incidents like this, they serve as hard reminders that we must take our responsibilities seriously.”

“If we want to limit the spread of the virus and get businesses back up and running again, we must put all and every line of the guidance into practice. If anyone decides to ignore the guidance and take risks beyond what is allowed and responsible, they should feel the full force of the law and be shut down, period," said Mr. Neill.