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Stormont’s hospitality support scheme extended to cover hotels

The scheme was originally launched in December after a series of Covid-19 curbs were introduced in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy (left) with Barney Vallalay in Maddens Bar, Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

Finance Minister Conor Murphy (left) with Barney Vallalay in Maddens Bar, Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

Finance Minister Conor Murphy (left) with Barney Vallalay in Maddens Bar, Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

A financial support scheme for hospitality businesses hit by bolstered restrictions brought in to combat Omicron has been extended to cover hotels.

The move proposed by Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy was backed by ministerial colleagues at Thursday’s Executive meeting.

Hotels will now be eligible for a one-off grant between £10,000 and £20,000 depending on their rateable value.

In December, ministers announced a £40 million grant scheme that covered nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, bistros, snack bars, pubs/bars, social clubs or private members’ clubs.

It was developed after ministers decided to introduce a series of curbs on the hospitality sector in a bid to reduce Covid-19 transmission.

Grants of between £10,000 and £20,000 were made available to more than 3,200 eligible businesses.

The restrictions introduced in December in response to warnings about the threat posed by the Omicron variant have all now been lifted.

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REPRO FREE27/1/22: Finance Minister Conor Murphy pictured with Carol-Louise Munce at Pizza on the Square, Belfast city centre. Over £23.7m has issued to almost 2000 hospitality businesses under the Department of Finance’s Omicron Hospitality Payment. Picture: Michael Cooper

REPRO FREE27/1/22: Finance Minister Conor Murphy pictured with Carol-Louise Munce at Pizza on the Square, Belfast city centre. Over £23.7m has issued to almost 2000 hospitality businesses under the Department of Finance’s Omicron Hospitality Payment. Picture: Michael Cooper

Michael Cooper

REPRO FREE27/1/22: Finance Minister Conor Murphy pictured with Carol-Louise Munce at Pizza on the Square, Belfast city centre. Over £23.7m has issued to almost 2000 hospitality businesses under the Department of Finance’s Omicron Hospitality Payment. Picture: Michael Cooper

Hotel sector representatives had questioned their exclusion from December’s support scheme.

“Hotels are a vital part of our hospitality industry and have undoubtedly been impacted by Omicron facing cancellations over the festive period,” Mr Murphy said on Thursday.

“I was determined to ensure hotels were not left without support and in the absence of a bid for funding for a scheme to help this sector being brought forward, my department has again taken the lead and obtained Executive approval to include hotels in the Omicron hospitality payment scheme.

“My department will move at pace to get financial assistance out to hotels.”

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault welcomed the move.

“The agreement of the Executive is seen as recognition of the role hotels play in the local economy,” she said.

“For most hotels December is their busiest month and trade secured helps to mitigate losses that traditionally occur in the first two months of the new year. Hotel premises experienced a reduction of up to 60% on food, beverage and function business.

“Hoteliers are pleased their plight has been recognised in a similar way to other components of the hospitality industry and welcome the inclusion of the sector in the scheme.

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Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault backed the move (NI Hotel Federation/PA)

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault backed the move (NI Hotel Federation/PA)

PA

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault backed the move (NI Hotel Federation/PA)

“To date, January has been quiet but with the relaxing of restrictions, the removal of the Covid passport and hospitals coping with infection levels, the climate is becoming more favourable.”

The Executive has also agreed to extend the Omicron hospitality payment to include certain sports clubs with a licensed bar or restaurant facility.

A maximum one-off £10,000 payment will be available to sports clubs that operate a bar or restaurant, have a liquor licence and received less than £50,000 in total from the Department for Communities Sport Sustainability Fund last year.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Murphy visited two hospitality businesses in Belfast – a bar and restaurant – that had benefited from the first round of funding.

The minister said more than £23.7 million had already been issued to 1,936 businesses.

“My department has worked at pace to deliver this scheme and I’m delighted that over £23.7 million has this week issued to hospitality businesses,” he said.

“These one-off grants will provide vital support to the hospitality industry which suffered a severe loss of trade as a result of Omicron.

“I encourage businesses which still haven’t verified their details to do so quickly to enable the Omicron hospitality payment to be made.”

The deaths of six further people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were announced in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Another 4,243 cases of the virus were also confirmed. On Thursday morning, there were 387 Covid-19 inpatients in hospital, 22 of whom were being treated in ICU.


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