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Pubs across NI and Ireland to switch on Christmas lights simultaneously

The event is designed to highlight the role of local bars in society and the struggles publicans are facing to keep the lights on during the pandemic.

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As part of the campaign, eight pubs across Ireland have already been lit up with support from the Guinness Raising The Bar fund (Diageo/PA)

As part of the campaign, eight pubs across Ireland have already been lit up with support from the Guinness Raising The Bar fund (Diageo/PA)

As part of the campaign, eight pubs across Ireland have already been lit up with support from the Guinness Raising The Bar fund (Diageo/PA)

Pubs across Northern Ireland and the Republic will simultaneously switch on Christmas lights this Friday at 5pm.

The event is designed to highlight the role of local bars in society and the struggle publicans, bar staff and their families face to keep the lights on during the pandemic.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said pubs had invested heavily in ensuring their outlets were ready to reopen safely.

“Whether it’s physical infrastructure such as PPE, Perspex screens and hand sanitiser or training for staff, we know that they have done the necessary to ensure that pubs can reopen safely alongside other sectors such as retail,” he said.

“Now all that these locals want is the chance to reopen safely on time for Christmas.”

Hospitality in Northern Ireland is planning to reopen next week.

Mr Neill added: “As part of this joint campaign with the Guinness Raising The Bar fund, we hope that the public will also show their support for a safe reopening of their local as we enter a Christmas period that will be decisive in keeping the lights on for pubs in Northern Ireland.”

The Republic of Ireland has been in Level 5 of its pandemic plan, meaning people are urged to stay at home except for essential purposes.

There are still two weeks to go before the planned removal of the restrictions but unless progress in reducing the disease incidence can be rapidly restarted it could put that plan at risk.

Liam Reid, corporate relations director of Diageo Ireland, said the Guinness Raising the Bar fund had already begun supporting pubs with a variety of measures to assist them with safe reopening.

This included over 3,000 outlets who had received reopening essentials kits, with upwards of 87,500 litres of hand sanitiser and 30,000 staff uniforms, and 700 outlets who had received items to create safe, weatherproof, outdoor spaces.

He added: “We have also launched the Raising The Bar Helpline to provide emotional support and financial information to publicans, bar staff and their immediate families who we know are suffering disproportionately at this time, while they once again wait for the chance to reopen safely.”

In many villages and townlands, the local pub may be the only beacon of light on dark winter nights, he said.

Mr Reid added: “Their prolonged closure due to Covid-19-enforced lockdowns serves as a physical reminder of the impact that Covid-19 has had not just on the pub trade and wider hospitality industry but also on communities up and down the country.”

Drink-only pubs have been allowed to open in Northern Ireland for four out of the last 37 weeks.

Around 1,200 bars located across Northern Ireland were forced to close again on Friday October 16 and will remain closed until November 27.

As part of the campaign, eight pubs across Ireland have already been lit up with support from the Guinness Raising The Bar fund.

The Garrick in Belfast and Grogan’s on Dublin’s South William Street have been decked out in their festive finest for a film capturing the human stories of publicans.

PA


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