British Beer and Pub Assoc CEO on Pubs of Ulster

19 November 2013

Irish Eyes are Smiling!

On 14/11/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive, British Beer and Pub Association)

BBPA has always worked closely with the licensed victuallers in England (FLVA and GMV), Scotland (SLTA), and Ireland, but we have most recently looked at strengthening our ties with Pubs of Ulster, whose reach extends to cover most of hospitality, but with a strong emphasis on responsible retailing and working as we do, closely with Government.

I was delighted to be invited to the Pubs of Ulster 2013 Pub of the Year Gala Awards Dinner in Belfast last night and despite the fact that I am Irish by birth, made my first trip back to Northern Ireland since I was a child. It was an extremely good evening.

Mark Stewart, their Chairman and our host, spoke about the importance of pubs, hotels, restaurants and bars to the Irish hospitality industry. They are looking for changes to their Licensing legislation to allow the industry to compete in a modern environment. Their key asks include a reduction in VAT (offered to hospitality in the Republic of Ireland, but not in the North); a review of red tape and a greater recognition within the EU. They have established a Responsible Retailing Code with a complaints panel which is their equivalent of the Portman Group, but covering the on and off trade. All premises are subject to its judgements and they may in the fullness of time have statutory underpinning of the code in law. It is chaired by Duncan McCausland a gregarious former Assistant Chief Constable who clearly commands respect in the community.

As ever in Ireland there are close ties with the US and I was fortunate enough to sit next to their Consulate General, Greg Burton, with whom I discussed British beer and our TTIP asks! On my other side was Simon Hamilton MLA who is the Minister for Finance. He is a clear supporter of pubs and we discussed everything from beer duty to VAT, business rates and even the World Cup!

Pubs of Ulster are working on a Great Ulster Pubs week next year to celebrate great pubs, great music, great food and great hospitality. Pubs of Ulster have close links to Ulster rugby union club and Ulster Giants, their ice hockey team. Their extremely good and active CEO is Colin Neill who amongst other things is looking next year at a charity bike ride from London to Paris supported by all his pubs. This is something I will be supporting – and I hope you do as well!

Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster are clearly important now and likely to become more important during the next General Election. We discussed hosting an event for them at Westminster in the New Year, particularly on our latest campaign for a beer duty campaign freeze in the next Budget. Clearly beer and pubs are important not only to the people of Northern Ireland, but to their economy too and our current ties will certainly benefit from being strengthened.