Hospitality Ulster has said a Supreme Court ruling paving the way to insurance payouts on claims for Covid-related disruption will come as "welcome relief" for small businesses.
he Supreme Court ruled largely in favour of an appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) following "widespread concern" over "the lack of clarity and certainty" for firms seeking to cover substantial losses incurred by the pandemic and first national lockdown.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said that, while it will help a limited amount of hospitality businesses, work needs to be done to make sure claims are paid out quickly.
“The hospitality sector here needs every single bit of help to make sure that those who have made it this far don’t go to the wall after weathering an extremely difficult year," he said.
"Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, business owners acted responsibly and took out policies that would shield them from the worst impacts of their businesses being interrupted.
"Whilst insurance companies have argued, no one could have foreseen a global health pandemic and medical crisis. This is what the insurance is in place for – it’s purchased to mitigate against the unknown.”
“This ruling will come as welcome relief to those owners who may have thought all was lost and that the costs associated with such insurance policies were worthless.”
The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the ruling, saying many firms had been left in "financial limbo" over the past year.
Chairman Mike Cherry said: "Today's judgment is a big victory. It cements the High Court's decision to grant businesses left on the brink the insurance payouts they are rightfully owed.
"For many, it has been a long and difficult road to get to this stage so this will bring clarity and hope to the thousands of firms which have been left in financial limbo for almost a year."
He also called for insurance providers to "pay out quickly", saying businesses deserve to be better protected.
Kim Roe, managing director of Sussex-based events company Circa Group, told the PA news agency: "We're very relieved. As a business that makes money from putting on events, we've lost a whole year of revenue during the pandemic.
"This ruling is a life-saver for us and will make all the difference in the world. It will hopefully allow us to continue functioning through these difficult times.
"I will never know why this wasn't just settled in the first place, so many businesses that have gone bust could have been saved much earlier."
Daniel Duckett, 40, who owns Lazy Claire Patisserie in Belfast, said: "This pandemic has very nearly put us out of business and without the support from insurers, me, my staff and our families have been through a lot of mental stress.
"For months we were unable to open our doors, everything has been up and down and there were times where I thought I'd have to close for good.
"I'm extremely excited and pleased by this ruling, it's just the clarity we needed and may help us through the rest of the pandemic," he added.