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Coronavirus: Slowdown for the hospitality industry leads to cost-cutting in Northern Ireland

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Help is needed to weather the Coronavirus crisis, says Colin Neill (Yui Mok/PA)

Help is needed to weather the Coronavirus crisis, says Colin Neill (Yui Mok/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Help is needed to weather the Coronavirus crisis, says Colin Neill (Yui Mok/PA)

Hospitality businesses here have said they are looking at cutting costs as they aim to get through a fall-off in bookings as a result of coronavirus.

One Belfast restaurateur said she was having sleepless nights.

Colum McLornan, the co-owner of The Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, said it was taking "sensible precautions" to keep costs down.

Jenny Holland, who runs Bia Rebel Ramen with husband Brian Donnelly on the Ormeau Road, said: "It certainly feels like it's going to get worse before it gets better, we're definitely concerned.

"It feels like the dominoes are falling near us. For a small business, we have absolutely no leeway, no margin for error."

She added: "If we were put on lockdown like Italy, that would be devastating. One weekend we can recover. Longer? It actually did keep me up last night."

Mr Donnelly added: "There has definitely been a downturn in business this week, I would say so far up to 20% less, and we expect more over the weekend.

"We are concerned and we are taking measures to make sure everyone is protected, from staff to customers.

"We are putting things in place to support that including rationalising staffing and prioritising full-time staff over part-time workers.

"I don't know what part of the acceptance curve other restaurant owners are on but I know cancellations are happening even at the restaurants you can't normally get booked into at short notice."

Mr Lornan said The Marine Hotel was being hit by cancellations.

"We are reducing costs and expenses where possible, and we will review again next week.

"These are challenging times for everyone and I am sure it will be a few months before things improve."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said pubs and restaurants will need help.

"We are keeping a watching brief and monitoring the sector as events and gatherings are postponed and cancelled.

"It's obvious that we are in a precarious position and need as much help and assistance as possible to stave off job losses, cash flow problems and longer-term financial damage."

Meanwhile, the Movie House chain of five cinemas said it's reducing capacity in its cinemas to give customers more space when watching a film.

Managing director Michael McAdam said it was also filling the gaps left by the postponement of new releases such as the latest Bond film, No Time To Die.

"We are facing the postponement of many upcoming movies by the film companies. While we understand that they need to consider the world market, it vastly impacts the choice of new movies that we can show.

"With that in mind, we are seeking alternative content that may appeal to our audiences."

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