| 18°C Belfast

NI pubs ready for long queues on hectic first day back after coronavirus lockdown



Paula and John Elliott from Co Down at Doheny and Nesbitt’s pub in Dublin

Paula and John Elliott from Co Down at Doheny and Nesbitt’s pub in Dublin

Paula and John Elliott from Co Down at Doheny and Nesbitt’s pub in Dublin

Belfast and beyond should be braced for busy bars and restaurants boasting large queues ahead of reopening this Friday, industry experts have said.

But some say there must also be long-term government support for those that are too small to cope with distancing.

Rajesh Rana, director of Andras Hotels, says, optimistically, that "there will be queues outside every pub in Belfast" at 11am on Friday, when bars which serve food or have an outside area are allowed to reopen.

But there remain fears that small bars and pubs which cannot operate with social distancing may never reopen.


Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "What we have been asking the Executive for is to give us a date for 'wet pubs' reopening.

"They see it more high risk than food only. If they are all table service, that should alleviate any problems.

"It's really important that government gives us a date. Regrettably, I do think this virus, and therefore social distancing, will be here for a very long time. We need government to help those businesses which just physically cannot reopen."

Speaking on the Ulster Business Podcast, Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said while "everyone is looking forward to coming back", there is a "little bit of nervousness around it".

"We have discovered that people miss the type of product we provide," she said.

But many spots, even those which are technically able to open their doors to serve food, will not open this weekend.

"The days of the shoulder-to-shoulder pub and back-to-back restaurant will not be with us for a while," Mr Neill says.

"There will be a responsibility on customers, businesses and staff to do everything to stop the spread of this virus."

Mr Rana, whose company owns hotels such as The Crowne Plaza and Ibis in Belfast, said while the "core of hotels won't have changed", customers will start noticing differences.

"Hotels are about hospitality ... the fundamentals won't change. There will be more distance between yourself and fellow diners, but the real work is behind the scenes," he said. "In our four star hotels, breakfast will be largely served. The buffet is a touch point we are trying to avoid.

"In the mid-market and budget hotels there will be a range of 'to go' options, just presented in a different manner."

Ms Gault says while businesses are now keen to bring staff back to work, getting through to March next year "is going to be a challenge".

Belfast Telegraph