Long Live the Local campaign as pubs come under pressure

The Northern Ireland pub is under threat as never before says Colin Neill
The Northern Ireland pub is under threat as never before says Colin Neill

Industry body Hospitality Ulster is calling for an urgent review of taxes and rates in the province as figures reveal that one pub closes in Northern Ireland every four days.

CEO Colin Neill says bars are facing crippling costs including duty on drink and the level of rates and has appealed for action to help pubs keep their doors open.

The ` Long Live the Local’ campaign is part of a co-ordinated UK-wide fight along with the British Beer & Pub Association and Britain’s Beer Alliance, to save local pubs. The campaign will be taken to Westminster MPs and locally elected politicians.

“Hospitality Ulster has long defended our great local pubs, and we are proud to bring the ‘Long Live the Local’ campaign to Northern Ireland,” said Mr Neill.

“We need a cut in beer duty to support our local pubs. Our pubs are at the centre of our communities, they provide a place for local people to go, employment for local people and are, of course, a key part of our tourist offering.

“Yet they have been completely and unfairly attacked with a series of beer duty rises between 2008 and 2013, which has really hurt their ability to attract customers.

“It is outrageous that beer duty is at its current level, it can only lead to one thing – pub closures, job losses and the heart being taken out of communities across Northern Ireland.”

Industry figures show that between 2008 and 2013 the government increased beer duty every year. The level of beer duty in Northern Ireland, and across the UK, is now 12 times higher than Germany.

At the same time, the bodypoints out that the hospitality sector adds £1.1 billion to the economy annually and sustains 60,000 jobs.

Locally, Mr Neill added that lower levels of disposable income in the province have added to the problem.

Despite this, he said there was fierce loyalty with 43% of people from NI said their local pub was a social centre for the community, while 56% said it was a place to relax and socialise with friends.

And the pub has an increasingly important role in family life, with almost half of NI respondents saying it was the best place for a family lunch.

“Our campaign is also encouraging customers to support and celebrate their local pub and the invaluable contribution it makes to communities the length and breadth of Northern Ireland,” Mr Neill said.

“Our local pubs need to be supported and that is the message we will be sending out strongly in the coming weeks and months.’’