Tens of thousands of pounds in trade lost by Cathedral Quarter bomb
Restaurants in Belfast's bustling Cathedral Quarter evacuated after a dissident republican bomb exploded lost tens of thousands of pounds in trade, it's been estimated.
Traders said they are still calculating the full financial loss after hundreds of customers enjoying Christmas parties had to leave on what was regarded as one of busiest nights of the year after the device detonated on Friday.
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Association (NIIRTA) have described the bombing as a "spiteful" attack adding that while it was too early to know the exact financial loss its impact would have been "significant".
Police evacuated around 1,000 revellers from the area filled with bars, restaurants, homes, a theatre and a hotel at around 6.45pm with it remaining shut until the next day - costing the restaurants thousands of pounds in trade.
Susie Balmer (25) assistant manager at the 4th Wall restaurant in the Cathedral Quarter, estimated it was at least tens of thousands of pounds lost.
Ms Balmer said they were preparing for the second sitting when they were informed they had to close.
"There is at least several thousand pounds that have been lost with the bills that have to be paid and what we have to refund," she said. "I think everyone (in the area) has lost a lot from Friday night. Would it be in the tens of thousands of pounds lost for the whole square? Absolutely."
"We just have to try and make the rest of December make up for Friday."
Ms Balmer said the kitchen and restaurant was left with half-eaten dinner plates and half-drunk glasses of wine.
"I don't know how much the wastage of food that has been left in the kitchen will amount to," she said. "It just had to be left – it was there overnight and just had to be binned.
"Some people who had only finished part of the meal, we charged them for part of the meal," she said. "Others were good and said they would come back and settle the bill next week."
But she said despite a few cancellations on Saturday they experienced more people trying to book a table.
"So it hadn't put that many people off coming to this area of the city–but it was just ridiculous," she said.
Glyn Roberts, chairman of NIIRTA, said it was a "nasty" attack.
"I think it is too early to say exactly how much this has cost," he said. "It will no doubt have had a significant impact on what was one of the busiest nights or days of the year for retail and hospitality.
"This was a nasty, spiteful attack. It was the lowest of the low."
Pubs of Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said the blast had put countless people at risk. "We would encourage people not to be deterred by this news.
"Belfast will certainly not be deterred and is open for business."