It is great to see that the pubs, cafes and restaurants have finally got some dates for when they can reopen their doors to the public once more, but the response has been rather lukewarm from the hospitality industry so far as some feel things are not moving along quickly enough. And the dates are of course subject to review in case infections begin to soar at any point in between.
Outdoor licensed and unlicensed premises like beer gardens, cafés and restaurants serving outside could be opened as soon as April 30, with May 24th being the date set for when indoor hospitality can start up again.
Businesses Can Now Start To Cautiously Plan Ahead
Speaking to Belfast Live on the dates set by the Northern Ireland Executive, Martin Kelly, who owns Biddy Farrelly’s, a café in the Smithfield area of Belfast, said:
“At least we’ve got a date, the fact we never had dates before and nobody knew what was happening, while England had dates, we were all in limbo.
“At least now we can plan and say potentially we’ll be open, because you don’t know for definite we’ll definitely be open. So potentially we’ll be fully open on May 24 and that’s really what you plan for.
“We have an outside area, but you can’t get a big amount of people in it and with social distancing you can get even less in it. As much as you use what you have, it’s still not enough to keep you going.
“Yes, you can put a few chairs outside, but you know what our weather is like. You could have sun and rain all in the one day, who’s going to want to sit outside?
“The other problem for us is we’re in the town, and the town’s dead. You start to think if we open, will we even get the trade? If all the big shops in Castlecourt like Debenhams have started to close down, people are starting to drive out to the likes of Abbeycentre and Sprucefield.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens in England over the next few weeks because if cases start rising, they might put things back.”
Hope Is Now On The Horizon
In the same article Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill welcomed the dates saying:
“There are still several weeks to go for outdoor to be opened and five weeks still to go for indoor hospitality, but we now have dates and a timescale to work with. Whilst these are indicative dates, especially for the reopening of indoor, it is hoped that the programme can be accelerated.
“Hope is now on the horizon and for those who have been able to survive this devastating period it is now time for them to prepare their businesses for the long awaited resumption of trading. It is now in everyone’s interest that we make sure that all precautions are taken to get us through these next few weeks safely.”
“Our industry has spent millions of pounds on Covid secure measures and will reopen in a responsibly way, but any additional restrictions must allow businesses to operate on a sustainable footing to secure the future of the jobs depending on them.”
Let us hope that there are no more hiccups on the road to economic recovery and businesses can get back to what they do best.