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Covid breach: Belfast bar closed after police chief Simon Byrne goes on beat in city centre

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Patrol: PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (left) with chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride in Belfast city centre

Patrol: PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (left) with chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride in Belfast city centre

PA

Patrol: PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (left) with chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride in Belfast city centre

The closure of licensed premises in Belfast for breaching Covid-19 regulations highlights the "desperation" of bar owners who still cannot reopen, an industry chief has said.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride were on patrol in the city centre on Saturday evening conducting inspections, resulting in the establishment closing.

Mr Byrne said it was crucial the rules set out by the Executive are followed by licensed premises. Police have served 33 prohibition notices for the breaching of Covid-19 regulations since July 3, the BBC reported on Sunday.

The PSNI said a prohibition notice does not necessarily mean premises have to close down for a significant period.

There were 106 new confirmed cases of coronavirus reported by the Department of Health on SUnday. It also emerged a prisoner at Maghaberry has tested positive for Covid-19 - the first confirmed case in Northern Ireland's prison system.

Mr Byrne tweeted: "Unfortunately, while out with @PSNIBelfast last night we had to issue one prohibition notice which resulted in officers closing an establishment. It is vital that the @niexecutive #Covid19 regulations are strictly followed in order to keep the community safe."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, told the Belfast Telegraph that while he was not aware of the circumstances behind the enforcement, he insisted those who own 'wet' bars are in "desperation mode".

"Our position is that we welcome the police enforcement. We have called for far more regulation but the challenge is that we don't know the circumstances behind this - whether it is food (licensed) premises or non-food (licenced) premises that were closed," he explained.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants here are subject to a series of restrictions under the coronavirus regulations, including a stipulation that alcohol can only be served indoors if accompanied by a meal. Bars which do not serve food had been mooted to reopen at the start of this month; however, the Executive decided to delay the matter.

Mr Neill has subsequently called for a rescue package in order to help 'wet' bars and pubs from going under.

He said that the case highlights how non-food premises "are in desperation mode" and his organisation was sympathetic to their plight.

He added that "we don't condone breaking the law but we really need to properly get measures in which stop the spread of coronavirus".

Mr Neill said the best course of action would be to enable 'wet' bars to reopen and for the rules to be rigorously enforced.

In recent days, two people were handed £1,000 fines for breaching international travel regulations that require travellers arriving from countries not on Northern Ireland's safe travel list to self-isolate for two weeks. One man caught flouting the rules was slapped with a fine after he went out socialising in Enniskillen following his return from Ibiza last weekend.

The latest available PSNI figures reveal there have been 745 community resolution notices and 479 fines issued since the March lockdown.

Belfast Telegraph