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Coronavirus in NI: Bar and restaurant owners react to measures

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image copyrightPA Media

Pub, restaurant and hotel owners have told BBC News NI they fear it is "crunch time" for their businesses as Northern Ireland prepares to face new coronavirus restrictions.

The NI Executive has announced that delivery and takeaway-only services will be allowed from food establishments from Friday, with shorter periods for selling alcohol at off-licences and supermarkets.

Hotels could be set to close their doors for four weeks from 18:00 BST on Friday, in line with pubs and restaurants.

That news has yet to be confirmed, but the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation has said it expects the move to go ahead.

'I think we're done'

Gerard Keenan, owner of Dan's Bar in west Belfast

image copyrightGerard Keenan

"To be honest I think we're done," Dan's Bar owner Gerard Keenan told BBC News NI.

"In a couple of weeks or so if it hasn't changed I think we've no choice, we'll have to sell our bar, I don't really want to do this anymore."

Mr Keenan said his business had been praised by Belfast City Council and police who had inspected safety measures introduced since pubs were allowed to reopen.

"I thought we were doing an excellent job in our pub," he said, adding that the latest measures have "cut the feet from beneath us".

'The endgame for many'

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster

"This is now endgame for many in the hospitality industry," Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster told BBC News NI.

"We understand that obviously health comes first, but I think it's fair to say the hospitality industry has done more than any other industry to step up with measures.

"We have a health crisis, we accept that, but we also now have a hospitality crisis," he continued.

"What happens in four weeks if the rate [of infection] hasn't come down?"

'This is crunch time'

Selina Horshi, managing director of White Horse Hotel in Campsie

image copyrightSelina Horshi

County Londonderry hotel owner Selina Horshi said her business had to borrow to pay bills "month on month" during the initial lockdown and fears the latest measures will hit the industry hard.

With the Derry and Strabane District Council area facing tighter measures in recent weeks, including on travel advice, she said occupancy levels are down and her business misses out on many of the financial support packages.

"We really need to know exactly what the rules are because we're always having to do things incredibly quickly," she told Good Morning Ulster.

"We need communication about exactly which parts of the sector are going to be helped and which ones aren't.

"This is crunch time."


Colin Johnston, Galgorm Collection Managing Director

image copyrightColin Johnston

The managing director of the Galgorm Collection said he was "devastated" by Wednesday's announcement.

"Last week we publicly called on the Executive to protect the industry and the livelihoods of its workforce and we are incredibly saddened that this has fallen on deaf ears," Colin Johnston said.

"Last week we warned that up to 75% of hospitality jobs and people's livelihoods could be lost by Christmas unless measures are put in place by the executive to sustain the industry.

"We have not seen any detailed evidence to support the case that the hospitality sector is a driver of community transmission."

'Blood, sweat and tears'

Kelvin Collins, owner of Ben Madigan's Bar & Kitchen in Belfast

image copyrightKelvin Collins

North Belfast pub owner Kelvin Collins said it is "crunch time number two" for his business.

"It's a hard time for everybody," he explained, adding that he voluntarily closed before the first lockdown "because we were worried about customers".

Mr Collins said he had "no choice but to try" survive the latest measures having put "blood, sweat and tears" into building up the business.

"We're coming into Christmas, it's normally a time of year where we build reserves for January, February and March of next year, there are a lot of businesses that are closing down now that might not reopen again."


Joanne Shilliday, owner of Hole in the Wall bar in Armagh

image copyrightPA Media

Joanne Shilliday said people need to "understand the reality" of what the restrictions will do to businesses like her own.

"I do not know how we will survive," the Hole in the Wall bar owner told PA.

She explained that there will be a wider impact: "It is not just us, it is the taxi drivers, it is the old people that live on their own, that have no one else but us, it is out staff.

"It is mind-blowing this morning."

'Full lockdown is needed'

Michael Deane, restaurant owner and chef

image copyrightPacemaker

Belfast restaurant owner Michael Deane said his sector is "being treated like criminals" and becoming a "scapegoat for everybody else".

"We haven't seen the data that it was spreading in restaurants," he explained, adding that "consumer confidence is already on the floor".

However, the businessman said he believes "a full lockdown is needed" to change behaviours and argued measures should not be "half-hearted".

"Children are going to meet on the street corners, students are still going to go to off-licences up to eight o'clock, then they are going to order carry-outs from local restaurants," he continued.

Will support packages be enough?

Michael Henderson, director of the Northern Ireland Takeaway Association

image copyrightMichael Henderson

The NI Takeaway Association said many takeaway food businesses will find it very difficult if there is a reduction of passing trade from the restrictions on local hospitality businesses.

The association's director, Michael Henderson, said existing takeaways will also find it difficult to compete "as the market becomes more saturated with restaurants who are forced to pivot in these uncertain times" towards offering such services.

"We believe financial packages will be put in place and we hope these will be suffice to support the industry," he added.

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