15 June 2020


Hospitality Ulster says Economy Minister Dodds has delivered for sector after reopening date announced

Hospitality Ulster has warmly welcomed the announcement made by Economy Minster Diane Dodds and her Executive colleagues today that the majority of the hospitality sector has been given a date to reopen after Covid19 lockdown restrictions.


It has been confirmed that Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs & Bars serving a substantial meal and cafes etc, will be allowed to reopen on 3rd July. ‘Wet Only’ Pubs who only sell drink will be allowed to serve alcohol outdoors from that date. However, challenges remain as to the commercial viability of many in the sector under social distancing rules, which are actively being examined.


Commenting on today’s announcement, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill said:


“We welcome the Minister’s announcement today, which is a significant milestone in what will be a long and challenging path to rebuild our hospitality sector.”


“Minister Dodds has been a champion for our industry throughout this crisis, and she has made the right call. We, and the entire sector, are extremely grateful for her support and commitment.”


“The Covid19 pandemic has taken many lives across our communities and it is important that we recognise the serious nature of this virus and the continued threat it poses, but we must also ensure that as many families as possible do not also lose their livelihoods. Pre Covid19 65,000 people depended on us to put bread on their tables and a roof over their heads, we must now strive to save as many of those jobs as possible.”


He added:


“Operating under the restrictions will not be easy and we recognise that many businesses will still be unable to reopen. But we welcome the Ministers comments to bring forward proposals on reopening these parts of the industry in due course. We will continue to work with the Minister and the NI Executive to bring forward the full reopening of all our hospitality businesses as soon as possible.”


On 2m vs 1m issue, Colin Neill is hopeful of a reduction before reopening date:


“In relation to the current 2m Social Distancing requirements, it is highly likely that many hospitality businesses will still be unable to reopen, as it simply will not be commercially viable. This is not about safe and unsafe, it is about safe and safer and we are encouraged by the discussion at NI Executive level led by Minister Dodds. I hope to see the distance reduced to 1m in line with WHO guidelines as soon as possible.”


On the health and safety aspects of the reopening phase for the hospitality sector, Colin Neill said:


“With Covid19 still circulating amongst us, it is vital that our industry implements all possible measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Protecting our staff, our customers, and our communities is paramount.”


“We have extensive industry specific guidance, drafted and ready to go, however until the UK Government releases its guidance for the sector, we are unable finalise and publish our guidelines. We expect that it will be issued in the coming days.”


He concluded:


“This is a good day after such a devastating period for us all. We have come through some really challenging times in the past three months and now the planning starts to emerge safely. With the tragic loss of life due to Covid19, this is not a time for celebration, but it is a time for the many people that work in our industry to look forward with hope.”


“We still have issues to deal with and are working with the government and local authorities to secure a flexible approach to using outdoors spaces in a bid to increase capacity, as even a 1m social distance will leave many businesses below breakeven.”


“As part of our 12-point plan we are actively lobbying both the NI Assembly and Westminster for continued financial support, tax cuts and additional backing for businesses that cannot implement any level of social distancing.”