Still a ‘long way to go’ for hospitality industry despite welcome change to Easter opening hours

Pubs and clubs welcomed the change in opening hours over the Easter weekend but still face a long road to recovery following coronavirus lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis, a pub owner has warned.

By Niall Deeney
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:17 pm

This year was the first Easter with updated licensing laws for pubs and clubs, meaning alcohol could be bought and sold as if it were any other weekend.

The changes had been years in the making, and were the result of legislation passed by the Stormont Assembly last year.

The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2021 will see a host of changes introduced in phases.

Stephen Reynolds, owner of the Front Page Bar in Ballymena and a board member at the industry body Hospitality Ulster, said the changes had been a long time coming.

But he warned that while welcome, the industry still faces challenges.

“I’m on the board there for Hospitality Ulster, and we have been battling to get this rectified for many years,” he told the News Letter.

“It was a bit ridiculous that at the start of the so-called tourist season people couldn’t get into a pub before five o’clock, but you could go into a supermarket and get as much booze as you like from eight o’clock in the morning.

“It is great to see it changed, however despite all of the press and all of the information that went out a lot of people still weren’t aware that the change had come into effect.”

He added: “It’s been the old way for so long, it might take some time for people to get used to it.”

Mr Reynolds said hospitality businesses continue to face challenges.

“We had the fear of Covid and, to be fair, there are still people out there who are afraid of catching it so we have the same fear factor,” he said.

“And that’s being compounded by the cost-of-living crisis. The changes are welcome but there’s a long way to go towards recovery.”