Reacting to the Executive’s decision to extend the lockdown imposed on hospitality businesses and close contact retailers, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “There is huge disappointment amongst Belfast Chamber members who were forced to close by the NI Executive four weeks ago that they are now not able to reopen this weekend as they were originally and indeed subsequently assured.
Unfortunately, after offering no convincing evidence for closing these sectors in the first place, no additional evidence has been put forward for keeping them closed for a further period.
Various Ministerial statements built up a reasonable expectation amongst businesses that, as they were repeatedly told, the restrictions would last for 4 weeks, would end on 13 November and that affected businesses could reopen and start trading again from then. There is deep, deep dismay at this change of direction, there is distress at the shambolic way this decision has been made and some are saying that they now feel that they are indeed the “villain” just a few weeks after being told they weren’t.
Having being told that they could reopen this weekend only to be informed at the eleventh hour that they’ll now have to wait even longer, many businesses are understandably concerned that the new dates that they’ve now been told when they can reopen will also, similarly, slip.
Ministers must now fast track support that for lots still hasn’t arrived, increase funding to affected businesses and also give a cast iron guarantee that the new reopening dates will happen and ensure that these businesses can take the necessary steps to plan for reopening and enjoy something of a Christmas trading period.
The embarrassing mess that has played out over the last few days has been hugely unhelpful and Ministers must avoid a repeat. They should seek to work closely with business in developing a way forward and end the high wire acts which just heap additional pressure on already struggling businesses”.