Northern Ireland restaurants get green light to reopen while wet-led pubs forced to remain closed

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Northern Ireland restaurants get green light to reopen while wet-led pubs forced to remain closed Coronavirus restrictions 11 December Hospitality...

Related tags: Northern ireland, Restaurant, Pub, Coronavirus, lockdown

Restaurants in Northern Ireland will be able to reopen from Friday (11 December) following an eight-week lockdown of the country's hospitality sector.

The Executive at Stormont has confirmed that hotels and guesthouses will also be able to reopen, as will pubs and private members’ clubs serving a main or substantive meal 'that has been prepared in their own kitchen'.

However, nightclubs, wet-led pubs and private members’ clubs unable to serve a 'substantial meal' will not be able to reopen, although off sales will be permitted up to 10.30pm each evening.

Northern Irelands Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neil, has said that an additional support package will be put in place for traditional drink-only pubs unable to reopen.

A complete shutdown of Northern Ireland's hospitality sector, apart from for deliveries and takeaways, was ordered back in October following a spike of Coronavirus cases and was originally expected to last four weeks. 

However, while cafes and coffee shops were given a brief opportunity to reopen in November, it was later decided that the lockdown on the sector would be extended​ into December.

Businesses able to reopen will remain subject to an 11pm curfew, with last orders restricted to 10:30pm.

Reacting to Stormont's announcement, trade body Hospitality Ulster described the decision to keep wet-led pubs shut as 'unfair and unjust'.

This is nothing but terrible news for owners and staff in traditional pubs who have once again been unfairly singled out to bear the brunt of the Covid lockdown for the greater good," said Chief Executive Colin Neill.

“Our traditional pubs have only been open for three weeks since March (two weeks in Derry/Strabane) so they cannot be responsible for the spread of the virus.

"Despite that, the opportunity for them to trade and try and recoup a small amount of the massive losses they have suffered throughout this year has now been taken away.

“The idea of a packed, sweaty pub with close contact is a dim distant memory and no longer exists and enduring Covid regulations have put an end to that.

"Food-led hospitality was open for months, without an increase in the [reproduction number] and our traditional pubs can operate under the same strict regulations, ensuring a Covid-safe environment.”

There is no indication yet from the Executive as to when pubs may get the go-ahead to reopen in the future.

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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