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Pub owners want urgent help to save 35,000 jobs

Urgent action is needed to secure tens of thousands of jobs in the £1bn Northern Ireland pub industry, a new report has claimed.

Pubs of Ulster, a professional body with over 70% of the licensed trade in Northern Ireland, has created a ‘manifesto’ to highlight issues and challenges facing the industry and outline actions required for the licensed trade to grow.

Among the proposals is an already much-vaunted ban on supermarkets selling alcohol at below cost price.

The document has called on the Northern Ireland Assembly to tackle a series of legislative and policy issues if the 35,000 jobs in the industry are |to be safeguarded.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said that despite the “significant contribution” made by the pub trade, the sector has been under considerable pressure due to the economic climate and proposed legislative changes.

“Pubs of Ulster has identified the priorities and actions required for the licensed trade to reach its full potential in four key areas — social responsibility, driving economic growth, business equality and sustainability,” he said.

“In addition to outlining their stance on issues such as liquor licensing reform, the environment and opening hours, the manifesto also addresses issues that are currently high on the political and media agenda.

“With the current focus on |the responsible retailing and consumption of alcohol, Pubs of Ulster outlines its position on two of its key objectives, the need to ban the below-cost selling of alcohol by the major supermarkets and the ban on the advertising of alcohol promotions.

“While many people will be aware of some of the issues affecting the industry, such as minimum pricing and alcohol promotions, there are a range of factors that do not receive the same much needed attention.

“The pub trade faces an uncertain future and raising awareness of and taking action on the issues affecting the sector is vital.”

In March, research by the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade (FRLT) showed that 44% of its members across the province laid off staff in 2009, while 83% cut staff hours.

Meanwhile the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi) yesterday claimed employment in the sector dropped by a quarter in recent years while the rate of consumption of alcohol fell by 16%.

Belfast Telegraph