Lack Of Assembly Costing NI Hospitality Sector Millions And Threatening Its Future

Lack Of Assembly Costing NI Hospitality Sector Millions And Threatening Its Future

25 September 2018

Hospitality Ulster says continued position of NI Assembly like being ‘trapped in a scene from Father Ted’

Hospitality Ulster has said the lack of a Government in Northern Ireland is costing the sector millions and damaging the potential for future growth - sighting the lack of progress to modernise Liquor Licensing as one of its major contributors to the losses.

A Liquor Licensing Bill was one of the few pieces of legislation the Assembly had introduced at that time, but the collapse of Stormont killed the Bill which set out to address the antiquated laws.

And there is now growing anger among the hospitality sector as Hospitality Ulster holds its latest AGM in Belfast today.

Tens of millions of pounds are being lost every year due to the fact that the draft legislation continues to gather dust, putting Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage.  The annual meeting also comes after the recent news that every four days a pub in Northern Ireland closes for good, whilst hotels and restaurants struggle to recruit staff and Brexit threatens to stop access to vital labour markets.

The leading industry body has now called for serious focus to be placed on developing the hospitality offer as a key driver for the local economy and a vital element of our tourism offer.

Modern licensing laws won’t result in more alcohol being drunk, it will mean our pubs, restaurants and hotels can offer our customers what they want and hopefully attract people away from home drinking into a controlled environment.

With Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol also remaining an untouched issue, harmful drinking continues to rise. The latest research shows that only 6% of the population consumes 44% of the alcohol, predominantly at home, with the negative consequences placing a huge strain on the health and social care system here. Attracting them into a pub would help to counter the negative impacts of home drinking.

Ahead of the Hospitality Ulster AGM, Colin Neill, Chief Executive said:  

“Both the current and future potential of the hospitality sector is being damaged with outdated legislation, crippling business rates, and a lack of access to labour, due to the lack of a functioning government in Northern Ireland

It’s like Father Ted, where the intentions are good, but descends into never ending calamity. We have now found ourselves caught up in a farcical episode on repeat.”

It’s the ‘Careful now, down with that of thing’ scene but for SEVEN YEARS!

That’s nearly a decade since the NI Assembly started the process of modernising our antiquated licensing laws - nothing has happened. These losses can now be counted in millions of pounds to the hospitality industry and the Northern Ireland economy.

Since our last AGM we never thought we would continue to be in this pathetic position. We need someone to take the reins and make decisions, whether that is our politicians or civil servants.”

There is a clear need for Northern Ireland to modernise its liquor licensing legislation and introduce MUP to reflect the needs of the modern market place and tackle the misuse of alcohol. We simply cannot continue with no decisions being made and the political paralysis stopping our industry from growing and developing. We are regressing through inertia and having to live with the consequences of the fact that the Assembly and Executive isn’t in operation.

We can’t keep saying, go on, go on, go on… we need our elected representatives to get back, get stuck in and give the hospitality sector the tools it needs to do the job.”