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Northern Ireland hospitality industry ‘hasn’t seen worst’ of closures yet amid cost-of-living crisis, says sector chief


Colin Neill

Colin Neill

Colin Neill

After a spate of restaurant closures in recent months, Northern Ireland’s hospitality chief has said he fears the industry “hasn't seen the worst” of the current cost-of-living crisis.

Amid a raft of eating establishments pointing to rising costs and inflation for their current predicament, Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neill said emergency action is needed, with the body claiming two or three businesses are closing every week across the province.

“We have gone from one crisis to another. It is actually worse than Covid, because at least with Covid there was help, there was support,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.

“We have astronomical energy costs, we have increased labour costs. There is only so much you can absorb and only so much the customer can pay.

“You have 72,000 jobs depending on it. We have seen the start of closures and I really fear come autumn we are going to see energy costs go up again and inflation is predicted to go up again. We haven’t seen the worst of this yet.

“We need immediate action, we need an emergency VAT cut and need support for our energy costs.

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“We have seen energy triple in price. I have premises that have gone from £7,000 a month to £20,000 a month [in costs].

“Put that in practical terms, an electric pizza oven now takes £300 a day or more just to turn on. I now have members who just can’t make a pizza as it is not viable to turn on the oven.”

The stark warning from Mr Neill follows the closure of a number of eateries and other businesses in the sector.

One of those to close in recent weeks was the popular Moes Grill in Magherafelt, who shut the doors after 11 years of trading on Sunday.

In a social media post, the restaurant – which also operates a branch in Antrim – said the closure comes amid their gas and electric prices doubling and “severe chef shortages”.

“This would be bad enough for the business but added to every other cost the business pays out increasing, it has reached the point that our business is no longer financially viable,” they added.

Robin Clarke, manager of Moes Grill in Antrim, told BBC NI it was the second closure they have had to make this year, following Redzs Piano Bar at the Junction One complex in January.

“We have worked hard with the restaurants throughout the years,” he said.

“One of the hardest things is having to speak to staff and telling them there is no job for them as we are going to close the restaurant.

“We have been looking at Moe’s Magherafelt for eight or nine months now and it just came to the point we had no option but to close.”

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