Hospitality a ‘scapegoat for Covid’, says wine merchant

Hospitality a ‘scapegoat for Covid’, says wine merchant

The hospitality industry “became the scapegoat for the cause of infections and Covid itself”, one of Ireland’s best known independent wine merchants has claimed.

James Nicholson, who founded JN Wine in 1977, also hit out at “the lack of any sort of plan going forward” from the Executive and said the industry’s patience was “wearing thin”.

He said: “Everyone was promised the data and the tests that had to be met to facilitate an escape from lockdown but nothing has been forthcoming leading to frustration and complete distrust of all of the political parties here.

“It seems that the hospitality industry became the scapegoats for the cause of infections and Covid itself. It’s only now that it is recognised that most infection emanated in households.

“We were also promised a force to set up a plan to build back business activity, set a strategic path, we are still waiting after all these months.”

James Nicholson says hospitality has been failed

The Co Down businessman said the on trade has suffered “virtually a 100% sales decline” with the closure of bars and restaurants, but hailed the resilience of those working in the sector.

“So many made the best job they could, offering home delivery, imaginative menus to keep the cash flowing, albeit at a fraction of their normal take.  There should be awards for these food heroes.”

‘A vertiginous climb’

The entrepreneur, whose own business was sustained during lockdown by off-sales, online and mail order trade, also warned the Executive must now step up to the twin challenges of Brexit and pandemic recovery before it is too late.

“Brexit has happened and the Protocol is in place, now let’s get on with it. There are many advantages in having a foot in both camps, unfettered access to the GB market has enormous potential to bring financial services, jobs and prosperity to the country.

“However, that requires an Executive to stop infighting and prepare a proper strategic plan to take this country out of the pandemic.

“We are facing a vertiginous climb where our leaders have to start pulling in the one direction, otherwise we are in danger of becoming a failed state.”