Celebrated chef Michael Deane blasts Northern Ireland's 'biblical' Good Friday drink laws
A leading Belfast restaurateur has slammed Northern Ireland's 'biblical' licensing laws which forbid serving alcohol with meals before 5pm on Good Friday.
Michael Deane, who has a string of swish establishments across the city, hit out in a rant on his personal Facebook page yesterday.
"Don't know how others in the restaurant business feel but the Easter licensing laws must change and they must change now!
"No longer can I welcome people through our doors who look completely stunned when wanting a small glass of Guinness with their oysters and to be told 'NO! SORRY! It's against the law!' A law we have had to carry since biblical day!" the award-winning chef wrote.
He added: "This Good Friday I have taken the decision to close on Friday lunchtime to avoid any more embarrassment to our hard-working staff who are there to serve people, all 180 of them, and like everyone else need paid on Friday.
"But remember you can get lots of booze in the supermarket and take it to a restaurant without a licence and drink all day as much as you like.
"Time to wake up and smell the coffee because that is all you will probably get."
The restaurateur's searing criticism of Northern Ireland's Easter licensing regulations was endorsed by hospitality expert Lyn Fawcett, who said the Good Friday restrictions were "part of the antediluvian laws that we have here in Northern Ireland".
"It's something that incenses many in the restaurant trade here," he said.
"Normally, licensed premises can open from 11.30 in the morning.
"But on Good Friday, they cannot open their doors until 5pm - a restriction which means they must lose all their lunchtime trade on a major public holiday.
"For most people, Good Friday is a public holiday, on which many people would want to arrange to go out for lunch.
"But the Good Friday restrictions means that all licensed restaurants in Northern Ireland lose their lunchtime customers.
"That represents significant damage to their trade," the retired University of Ulster hospitality and tourism lecturer told the Belfast Telegraph.
"This is not just restricted to restaurants in Belfast. It's Portrush, the north coast, the Fermanagh lakelands - everywhere.
"To be forced to lose 50% of your trade on one of the busiest days of the year is nonsense," Mr Fawcett said.