20 May 2022

County Derry publican: 'We need a date'

The lack of clarity is making it hard to plan ahead.

County Derry publican: 'We need a date'

McReynold's Bar is a popular Dungiven pub.

A County Derry publican has echoed a call from Hospitality Ulster to provide the industry with a specific date on which they can reopen.

Yesterday, the Northern Ireland Executive announced that hotels and tourist accommodation could reopen from July 20, but bars and restaurants are yet to receive a date.

Finvola Hassan, from McReynold’s Bar in Dungiven, said those working in the hospitality industry need time to prepare for reopening.

“We need them to give us a date because we’ll need three or four weeks to get everything sorted, for ordering and getting things ready,” she told the County Derry Post.

“I’m looking at stuff at the minute for getting the bar ready, but the social distance is 2m. We would nearly need 1m or 1.5m. Our bar isn’t small but it’s not big either.

“You don’t want to spoil your bar either, because a lot of bars have character and charm. If we could get it down to a metre or a metre and a half, it would be a big help.

“We have the beer garden out the back too, so we’ll do something more with that. You have to kind of think outside the box when it comes to this.

“It’s going to be tough. You could only get about a third of your customers in, but the date is so important.”

Hospitality Ulster have called for the Northern Ireland Executive to provide a date on which businesses in the sector can reopen, saying the current situation puts them at a ‘competitive disadvantage to their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales.

“Many hospitality businesses in the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland have dates for reopening, and we are now at a competitive disadvantage,” they said.

“We do not want to reopen until it is safe, but the Northern Ireland Executive must now look at when we can reopen based on our safety mitigation.

“Leaving us in phase five, with the return of full-service public transport, suggests that we cannot introduce safety measures, which is simply untrue.

“We will be in a position to demonstrate how we can operate safely. It is really now important we get firm dates around bars and restaurants, whether they be in hotels or outside them.”

Finvola is confident of being able to introduce the required safety measures when the date does come.

She said: “No one will be allowed to sit around the counter anymore, and there can’t be more than six people in a group at the minute.

“You’ll be constantly cleaning, and bars might need doormen that never had them before. People will probably have to book a table too.

“We are lucky, because we have two bars, so people could come in one door and out the other. I’ve already been in the bar just looking at how we can change things.

“We’re fourth generation, we don’t really want the likes of Covid to close us down. You have to fight on.

“Most pubs have their locals and their loyal customers. You don’t want to let them down and you’re looking forward to seeing them again.”

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