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New limits on pub and restaurant tables in Northern Ireland hard to enforce, warns Hospitality Ulster


(Nick Potts/PA)

(Nick Potts/PA)


(Nick Potts/PA)

New laws which mean no more than six people from two households in Northern Ireland will be allowed to sit at the same table in a pub or restaurant will be a challenge to enforce, a hospitality trade body has warned.

The new regulations, which were brought in this week by the Executive, apply to indoor and outdoor tables at venues.

Children will not be counted within a party of six, but must be from either of the two households- this is the only circumstances in which tables of larger than six are permitted.

Live music and DJs in venues are also now banned under the newly published legislation.

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Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, told the Belfast Telegraph that pubs and restaurants are currently battling to just break even and that some of the new regulations may force customers away.

"It is very hard for us to enforce (table limits) because we can say to people coming in, which we are advising our members to do, but if they identify as from one household there is nothing we can do to go any further," Mr Neill said.


Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster

"Even when you check people's IDs, you could have three students with different address IDs but they are all living within one house at the minute. All we can do on the table regulations is rely on the honesty of the people coming in."

The Executive is set to decide next week whether pubs and restaurants should close at 10pm, as they now do in England.

However, Mr Neill fears that this would increase the number of people going to house parties rather than their local pub or bar.

"11pm with a half hour drinking up time is our normal licence without a late licence," he said.

"That is the same legal requirement that is in down south at the minute. So it makes sense to work on an all island basis for our cross border areas.

"Also, the Executive has continuously cited house parties as a major issue, but the hospitality industry closing at 10pm will only drive house parties. Even if they close the off licences at 10pm, people will buy their drink during the day.

"We were reopened to save jobs and businesses. To do that we have to have a big enough offer to attract people out of the house so that we can make enough just to pay the bills but to do it safely.

"If you look at the new legally enforceable regulations, we are now the only part of the UK and Ireland with that level of legally enforceable Covid safety hygiene requirements. In that sense, we have created a safer environment than anywhere else in the island."

Mr Neill said that if pubs and restaurants are forced to close at 10pm they will lose 50% or more of their business.

"If you look at the restaurants, they would lose there second sitting. That would be 50% of their business again and in the pub trade it could be more because people would not come out," he said.

"The bigger social issue is that we are just going to drive house parties, we are going to drive cross border trade. All of the things where they say the issues are.

"There is no evidence at all the surge in cases is being driven by the hospitality industry. There are stats for England that show the three lowest places for transmission is prisons, hospitals and the hospitality industry. "

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