A Belfast city centre hotel is planning to develop an outside bar and cafe seating area in what could be the first for many hospitality businesses across Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.
The Hilton Belfast wants to extend its new No 4 bar with an outside seating area at the front entrance to its four-star hotel. The business launched its new bar in November last year as part of an almost £10m revamp.
Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster says such schemes are likely to be the first of many, as businesses adapt to life after lockdown. It is understood the Hilton's plans for an outside area had been established before the outbreak, but that a planning application was then pushed through during lockdown.
"It shows the industry still has confidence and determination to operate during social distancing and beyond," Mr Neill said.
"It is a sign of the new model that will emerge, and we do need government, especially the Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities, to make our legislation flexible and friendly, and work with us to create combined spaces across towns and cities."
He says such schemes and assistance are needed to "save the industry".
The proposed development would install new fixed planters at the external entrance to the bar and to the front of the hotel.
An application says "the proposals will have no resultant adverse impact on the appearance of the front of the hotel or on the surrounding area, being in keeping with design guidelines and adding to the amenity while also making positive use of the opportunities afforded by the existing building/urban form".
Following the announcement of the Northern Ireland Executive's five-stage plan, First Minister Arlene Foster said she hopes Northern Ireland will be long past the final phase by December. That phase includes the proposed reopening of bars, cafes and restaurants.