13 Aug 2022

What am I to say to my staff, says Derry pub owner 'upset' by new Covid-19 restrictions

From next week, bars and restaurants can only open for takeaways or outdoor dining

What am I to say to my staff, says Derry pub owner 'upset' by new Covid-19 restrictions

The Collon Bar in Derry.

The owner of a well-known Derry pub has tonight spoke of her 'upset' at the new Covid-19 restrictions which means she will have to close her business.

The Northern Ireland Executive today announced a raft of new measures in a bid to stop the rapid rise of the virus in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

The hospitality sector has been hit hard by the latest restrictions.

From next week, pubs, cafes, and restaurants in the local council area will only be allowed to offer takeaways or outdoor dining.

Hotels will only be allowed to provide services to their overnight guests and for wedding/funeral bookings.

There are a number of other restrictions being brought in after the local council area became one of the worst affected areas in the UK in relation to positive Covid-19 cases.

The new restrictions are being brought in for an initial two weeks period, but First Minister Arlene Foster said the situation would be reviewed on a weekly basis.

Susan Diggins, the owner of the Collon Bar in Derry, said she was 'so upset' by the new restrictions that she was 'compelled' to write to her MP, Colum Eastwood.

In her letter, which she has shared on her Facebook, Mrs Diggins described her pub as 'eminently Covid-ready'

She writes: “I am very concerned by the latest interdiction placed on my business. I am concerned on three levels:

“1. How accurate or indeed, trustworthy are the figures they are using to close an entire city's hospitality industry? It seems bizarre that our R rate is higher than that of Belfast, given the number of returning students and, of course, the much bigger population. Equally London is fine - really?

“2. I have only been properly reopened for a matter of weeks and have invested heavily to ensure that we are entirely Covid compliant. If an architect were to design a bar for the Covid era, this would be it!

“3. What am I to say to my staff? I have employed an entire new kitchen team to provide food to my customers and it is of a very high quality. What is to become of them?

“The suggestion that we continue as a carry out or delivery service or indeed, the laughable outdoor dining option in October is a complete non starter.”

Mrs Diggins finishes her letter to the local MP: “I await your reply with interest, and would hope that you could fight our corner in this woeful imposition.”

Speaking earlier today, Mr Eastwood said he understood the new restrictions will be 'challenging'.

“People in our communities are naturally sociable, entrepreneurial and active. But they are absolutely necessary to relieve pressure on our health service and protect each other,” he said.

“Derry and Strabane has shown that it can step up when needed, it is now needed again and I know that people will do all that they can.

“But this is a two way street,” added the Foyle MP.

“Government cannot restrict trading opportunities in the North West without additional support for businesses that will close and workers forced to be at home.

“I will be pressing very strongly for a support package to meet the needs of people in Derry and Strabane who are being asked to make more sacrifices.”

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