22 September 2020


Hospitality Ulster has said that new proposed regulations tabled at the eleventh hour and without consultation will disappoint everyone in the sector and those who support it, after previous extensive work to introduce strict legally enforceable regulations across the industry.

The organisation has said that the mooted closing time of 10pm should be scrapped straight away, replaced with at least an 11.30pm target to ensure financial sustainability for the sector and align it with the Republic of Ireland.  

The latest proposals follow a range of legally enforceable regulations coming into effect this week, developed with the hospitality sector as a means to curtailing the spread of COVID-19 at the same time as ensuring that the sector is open for business, albeit in a scaled back way.

Hospitality Ulster says that it understands that things will change as the coronavirus pandemic continues, but that further curtailment of the hospitality sector makes it very difficult to operate viable businesses.

Chief Executive, Colin Neill has also said that whilst Hospitality Ulster does not represent the music industry, any further restrictions on this important element will have a severe impact on the thousands of musicians that depend on music venues within the hospitality industry. And it has been stated that the proposal to totally ban live music is too severe and that a case has been presented for the allowance of acoustic live music which by its nature is low volume.

Reacting to these proposals, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said:

These proposals will disappoint many throughout our industry and those that support it. We all have a part to play in controlling this deadly virus. If we work together now, we hope that this will see normality resumed quicker to society.”

“We are continuing to engage with the Executive Office on these proposals, including to close premises early. If this is deemed necessary, we believe that Northern Ireland should align with the closing time of 11.30pm in the Republic of Ireland. To avoid confusion and for parity, the same should apply across the border.”

“Previously when live music and late nights were cited as high-risk areas and there was a lack of any enforceable regulations, we ourselves raised the option of early closure and banning music to address the risks. But since then, The Executive Office has engaged with the industry and developed the most comprehensive range of legally enforceable regulations anywhere in the UK.

“In partnership with the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, we had put forward proposals that we believed could safely deliver live acoustic music in public areas, along with risk assessed amplified live music for private functions and ticketed performances. We will continue to engage on this issue in the coming days and weeks and support the calls made by the Music Venue Trust.”

“With additional restrictions comes the need for additional support. The proposal to ban live music will have a severe financial impact and is ultimately likely to encourage more people to party in houses.”

He added:

“The past six months have been incredibly challenging for those in the hospitality sector and it seems that it is going to get even more challenging. With the furlough scheme due to end at the end of October, the UK Government must now step forward and extend this scheme to protect the thousands that will be affected. In addition, with trading now set to be limited even further, additional financial support for employees and businesses must also be forthcoming.”