Belfast Telegraph

Outdated licensing laws 'costing Northern Ireland £200m a year'

By Ryan McAleer

Our hospitality industry is losing out on £200m a year because of archaic opening hours, it has been claimed.

A new UK-wide study by Barclays says many bars, restaurants and leisure clubs are failing to adapt to modern working lives.

The Open All Hours? report found that almost half (48%) of those surveyed here now work extended hours, part-time, flexibly or according to a shift pattern, with one in five (20%) saying they need different opening hours.

It concludes that if businesses can respond to changing lifestyles, it could be worth £40m a year for restaurants, £30m for bars and clubs and £74m per annum for takeaways.

Colin Neill (right), chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, claimed the report was another indicator that licensing legislation needs to be modernised here. 

And he said hospitality could play a role in improving the offer of the retail industry.

“Backed by the growth in demand for experiential retail of which hospitality is a key element, this should be huge opportunity for our industry to expand our offering and increase revenue,” he said.

“But with opening hours  for pubs and restaurants limited by outdated licensing legislation, Government is actually stopping us from responding to market demands and giving the customer what they want.

“Once again this report highlights the urgent need to modernise our licensing legislation.”

The Barclays report is based on a survey of 2,334 UK workers who were asked about the leisure services they use.

Some 550 restaurants, takeaways, bars, hotels, health clubs, entertainment venues and visitor attractions were also asked for their input.

The report suggests a quarter of workers would like to visit museums, cinemas and tourist attractions later in the evening.

Barclays said by responding to such demands, the UK hospitality sector could benefit by £6.75bn a year.

Pure Gym is one business offering services outside traditional working hours. Some 20% of the company’s customers, which has eight outlets here, work out during the night.

Adrian Doran, who heads Barclays corporate banking department in Northern Ireland, said: “The current leisure environment does present a number of challenges for the sector’s businesses; the labour supply is challenged by Brexit, rent increases and food inflation are all set within the context of an incredibly competitive market which is already heavily discounting.

“However, those that don’t adapt to this type of newly developing consumer demand risk being left behind and in this ever-competitive environment, businesses need to weigh up the value of the long-term opportunity over the cost of the short-term investment.”

Belfast Telegraph

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