... while pubs group claims lack of Executive is costing millions
THE head of Northern Ireland’s publicans group has said that a lack of local government is costing the hospitality sector millions of pounds.
Chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill compared the collapse of the Assembly to being like “a scene from Father Ted”, adding that it was damaging the potential for future growth in the industry.
He cited the lack of progress in modernising the Liquor Licensing Bill as one of the major contributors to the losses.
There is growing anger among the hospitality sector that the Liquor Licensing Bill was killed following a breakdown in power-sharing.
Hospitality Ulster, which holds its latest AGM in Belfast today, said that tens of millions of pounds are being lost every year because the draft legislation has not been passed.
The annual meeting also comes as it emerged that every four days a pub in Northern Ireland closes, while hotels and restaurants say that they are struggling to recruit staff.
The leading industry body has called for “serious focus” on developing the hospitality offer.
Mr Neill said: “Modern licensing laws won’t result in more alcohol being drunk, it will mean our pubs, restaurants and hotels can offer our customers what they want and hopefully attract people away from home drinking into a controlled environment.
“With minimum unit pricing of alcohol also remaining an un- touched issue, harmful drinking continues to rise.”
He said that latest research shows that 6% of the population consumes 44% of alcohol, predominantly at home, which he said has put a “huge strain” on health services.
“Attracting them into a pub would help to counter the negative impacts of home drinking,” Mr Neill added.
“Both the current and future potential of the hospitality sector is being damaged with outdated legislation, crippling business rates and a lack of access to labour, due to the lack of a functioning government in Northern Ireland.
“It’s like Father Ted, where the intentions are good, but descends into never ending calamity.
“We have now found ourselves caught up in a farcical episode on repeat.
“It’s the ‘careful now, down with that sort of thing’ scene but for seven years.
“That’s nearly a decade since the Northern Ireland Assembly started the process of modernising our antiquated licensing laws — nothing has happened.”
‘Farcical’: Colin Neill