Frustrated is probably one of the more printable words that can be applied to Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill this weekend as he watched the revelry on Friday in the Irish Republic as the bars opened on Good Friday after new laws lifting a 90 year ban on the sale of alcohol came into force.
So now, along with lower VAT and a growing shortage of staff prompted by the fall of sterling against the euro, Mr Neill’s members must watch as trade over the border booms, while they are locking the doors.
“We are now entering yet another Easter in Northern Ireland where pubs, hotels and restaurants will be forced to sell alcohol on restricted hours across the whole of the Easter holiday period,” he said earlier this week.
“This is a ridiculous and unsustainable position for decision makers to enforce, especially when you consider that this year for the first time, and very sensibly, the hospitality sector in the Republic of Ireland will be able to operate as normal across the Easter period.
“That means that while Northern Ireland’s pubs, restaurants and hotels are putting up `SORRY, CLOSED EARLY’ signs, for their counterparts in the Republic it will be business as usual.
His comments were pretty much bang on the money judging by the comments of Dublin publican Brian Conlon, of Slattery’s Bar on Capel Street, who had the pleasure of pulling the first pint at 7am on Friday morning.
There was a queue of thirsty folks waiting apparently.
“It was busier than usual this morning,” he said.
“I think people were more coming in for the novelty factor that it was the first time in 90-odd years that you could legally have a drink.”
“They are all in having pints, they are all having breakfast - that option wouldn’t have been there last year, so I think it’s a great thing,” he said.
A great thing indeed and another example of why this place needs someone to make some decisions.
Being allowed to buy a pint in a pub might not be the most serious priority facing any government but since it’s costing the industry a claimed £20 million, it’s surely something to contemplate.