Coronavirus: 'Disaster' for pubs, hotels and restaurants and sector may not recover if government does not act, says lobby

Pubs, hotels and restaurants face a 'disaster on our doorsteps' and the sector may not recover at all if government does not take urgent steps to ameliorate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Colin Neill.Colin Neill.
Colin Neill.

That's the bleak assessment of Colin Neill, Chief Executive, of Hospitality Ulster, which represents the licensed retail trade.

“We are now at a financial tipping point. Our sector is being hit first; will be hit the hardest; and may not recover at all, if Government does not act now.”

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“We are about to see the jobs and livelihoods of many in the hospitality sector go to the wall unless Government takes some of the pain and introduces measures to match the unprecedented times we are in.

"We need our elected representatives to move fast and save our industry and the people who they representative right across Northern Ireland," he said.

Mr. Neill called for a range of urgent measures to help the industry survive the pandemic.

These include the abolition of Air Passenger Duty, a 'Rates Holiday,' the slashing of tourism and hospitality VAT, and leeway from the tax man and lenders.

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The lobby group has set up an Industry Response Group to monitor and analyse the financial impact of the developing situation on a weekly basis.

It says it will meet the First Minister Arlene Foster on Monday to address the "devastating impact that COVID19 is having on the sector".

“This isn’t an issue that is happening elsewhere,this is a disaster on our doorstep, and the NI Executive has it within its power to take decisions to help. Failure to assist will see significant job losses; establishments having to be sold off or boarded up; and the economy suffering with VAT and Tax takes down massively as many outlets will be no longer around. They simply can’t let that happen.”

“We are seeking a range of urgent interventions from the NI Executive and Westminster to take swift and decisive action so that we can stave off the biggest disaster our sector has faced in living memory," said Mr. Neill.