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Belfast music venue boss in Stormont plea over 'nonsensical' curfew

Bar owner and pioneer of Belfast's club scene Alan Simms has said an 11pm nightlife curfew will have an "immeasurable" impact on jobs as he urged the Executive to review its decision.

He spoke as the Department of Health said 320 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified here within the latest 24-hour period - the highest daily total since the current regime of testing began.

It brings the number of infections to 11,269, including 1,702 (15% of the total) notified within the last seven days.

There were no further deaths recorded, leaving the toll at 578.

Mr Simms, a director at the Limelight, said he was opposed to the curfew, saying there was no evidence of any benefits of a curfew, or of a ban on live music in pubs, restaurants and theatres.

"The effect that these curfews will have on jobs, morale and mental health is immeasurable and we call for the Executive to review them as a matter of urgency," he said.

In a statement to the Assembly on Tuesday First Minister Arlene Foster said a closing time of 11pm would apply to hospitality from midnight on Wednesday, with no drink or food to be served after 10.30pm.

Karen Heslip, the owner of the Downshire Arms in Banbridge, said the curfew would impact on business.

But she said she was more concerned about the enforcement of the rule that a maximum of six people from two households are permitted at a venue, both indoors and outdoors.

"Curfew shouldn't affect diners too much, but it will affect drinks sales, and it will have an impact on staff earnings," she said.

"I'm more concerned about the six people from two households rule and enforcing it. At least curfew is black and white, and we can deal with that by finding a way of increasing other sales.

"We have to deal with the public's response to whatever government throws at us."

Mr Simms runs the Limelight complex of two live venues, Katy's Bar and a rooftop terrace beer garden. He also founded dance music brand Shine and is a director of Belsonic Festival.

He said he and his fellow directors "respectfully disagree" with the Executive. "To date we have seen no medical, scientific or behavioural evidence in favour of such curfews, and the implementation of these will push patrons out of safe premises, with socially distanced measures, into the streets en masse, and drive substantially higher footfall to unregulated environments, as has been observed across England at the weekend," he added.

"Should there be any evidence supporting these curfews, we would welcome the opportunity to have view of this, and allow it to inform our plans to continue to provide a safe environment within which to welcome our customers."

He said live music events could be delivered within guidelines.

"We call for the Executive to engage with our sector before imposing seemingly arbitrary decisions on an already struggling industry," he added.

"This will have a permanent impact on our rich music and arts landscape, and will have a devastating effect on the many artists and industry professionals the sector currently employs."

Belfast Telegraph