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Struggling owners call last orders as over third of Northern Ireland pubs disappear


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The number of pubs and bars in Northern Ireland has fallen by 35% over the last two decades, according to new figures

The number of pubs and bars in Northern Ireland has fallen by 35% over the last two decades, according to new figures

PA Wire/PA Images

The number of pubs and bars in Northern Ireland has fallen by 35% over the last two decades, according to new figures

The number of pubs and bars in Northern Ireland has fallen by 35% over the last two decades, according to new figures.

The drop is particularly significant among small pubs - the number of bars employing 10 or fewer people - which fell from 1,000 in 2001 to 605 in 2019, according to the UK's statistics agency.

Bars employing between 10 and 24 people fell from 150 in 2001 to 115 last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Hundreds of pubs here have called time on their businesses over the past few years as the industry faces up to unprecedented trading difficulties.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said the latest figures will come as no surprise.

"Our pubs are at the heart of many communities and the loss of so many is hugely devastating," he said.

"Despite being at the heart of communities, it is disappointing that the hospitality industry continues to operate in such a challenging environment and we certainly require immediate support from the Government."

In Belfast there are now around 3.5 pubs per 10,000 people, which is lower than the UK average of 5.8 pubs.

There are 50 fewer pubs in Belfast than in 2001 and 2,000 less jobs in bars, a drop of 11%.

In Derry City and Strabane, there are around 30 fewer pubs in the area than a decade ago and currently around 800 employed, 20% fewer than in 2001.

In Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, there are 60 fewer pubs and currently 600 jobs in the industry.

Meanwhile, in the Causeway Coast and Glens area, there are now around 40 fewer pubs and 200 fewer jobs than in 2001.

Within Newry, Mourne and Down, the 500 jobs represents 44% less than in 2001, with 60 fewer pubs.

There are 10 fewer pubs in Lisburn and Castlereagh than in 2001 and currently 400 jobs, a decline of 20%.

In 2018 Ann Bain (69) and her husband Jim (76) put the Linfield Bar in Lisburn up for sale after more than 30 years.

The couple said the enormous financial pressures on the business prompted their decision to close the doors for good.

"Over the past few years, we had seen a terrible downturn in the trade," Mrs Bain said.

"We couldn't buy drink wholesale at the prices the supermarkets were selling it for so we were making no money," she added.

Mr Neill, meanwhile, claimed pubs are being held back by "outdated" licensing laws, while increasing bills and squeezed margins are also impacting.

He said: "We also have the highest business rates in the UK and the second highest hospitality VAT in Europe, which puts us at a disadvantage to the Republic of Ireland.

"This competitive disadvantage needs to be rectified to allow the hospitality sector to prosper.

"The hospitality industry is a key driver of the economy, contributing £1.2bn and sustaining 60,000 jobs.

"Without government support it is impossible to realise the economic potential which is possible to sustain and grow our industry."

Overall, the ONS said that the number of small pubs and bars (with fewer than 10 employees) increased by 85 across the UK last year.

The data shows a net increase for the first time in more than 15 years and the highest levels of real turnover since the end of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008.

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