Once again, NI’s antiquated licensing laws have impacted adversely on the local hospitality trade.
Tim Martin, the chairman of the pub chain, Wetherspoon, said recently that although the company planned to invest £200m over the next four years in GB and the Irish Republic, none of that money would be coming to Northern Ireland because licensing laws here were ‘frustrating’ and ‘expensive’.
Calling for a ‘review’ of NI drinks laws, Mr Martin said recently that while new premises were set to be opened in Dublin, Galway and Waterford, Wetherspoon had found operating in Northern Ireland to be ‘incredibly difficult’.
‘It’s incredibly expensive to open up a new business there with the licensing laws. To pay the licence and pay the objectors. It’s a couple of million,’ he remarked.
The chain currently operates four premises in Northern Ireland and has just bought the former Café Vaudeville building in Arthur Street, Belfast, which is currently occupied by Ireland’s only Revolucion de Cuba outlet. Plans to open a pub in a converted Methodist church on University Road have been withdrawn, however, because of fears around likely costs.
Mr Martin said that he thought the public in NI would probably like to see more Wetherspoon outlets but added that the system was ‘designed to protect vest interests’:
‘It’s the way the UK was 30 years ago,’ he added.
‘The money is going away from that economy, which isn’t right. It is, quite frankly, an antiquated licensing system.’