Plea to Executive as hospitality marks lockdown anniversary

Plea to Executive as hospitality marks lockdown anniversary

The Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster has urged the  Executive sit down with industry leaders to plan for reopening.

Speaking on the anniversary of the sector’s first lockdown, Colin Neill said the past year had been a “living hell for hospitality and that with no end in sight, hopes were fading fast for many business owners.

He added: “Today marks a full year since the Prime Minister made his statement in Downing Street directing the hospitality sector to close down, and with it, place in jeopardy the livelihoods of thousands of business owners and tens of thousands of staff across Northern Ireland.

“We had a good sense that this was going to be a very difficult situation, but we really had no idea that our sector would be locked down to the extent it has.

Colin Neill called for answers ©Press Eye/Darren Kidd

“Business owners have spent tens of thousands of pounds in making their businesses Covid secure environments – some of the highest standards in the world.

“Yes, there have been a range of financial support packages put in place and we are really grateful, but they can never cover the costs of keeping buildings locked shut, leaving the individual businesses to find millions on pounds to stay afloat – resulting in spiralling levels of debt across the industry. We may all be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.”

“With next to no engagement since December, questions must be asked;

  • “Why does the health department not want to publish the criteria that must be met to allow us to reopen?”
  • “Do they think we are stupid and won’t understand? Maybe I am – but I have smart friends I can call on to explain it to me.”
  • “Is there another agenda within the health department aimed at our licensed premises – using the cover of the current restrictions to further an anti-alcohol agenda?”

“Cash reserves, loans and borrowed money have been burnt through months ago and with increasing levels of employers contribution required for the likes of the furlough scheme in the coming months we are actually going head first into dire situation. Things will get worse before they get better.

“How many more days must we wait until the health department share the criteria for reopening all our hospitality businesses?

“How many more days must we wait until the Executive sit down with us to plan our reopening?

“How many more days must we wait without hope?…its now 365 days and counting.”