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Pub trade vital to shops’ survival

By Paul Ainsworth

BUSINESSES in South Belfast are relying on local pubs to help stay afloat, local councillors have been told. Belfast City Council recently heard from Pubs of Ulster CEO Colin Neil, who stressed the financial difficulties of pubs right across the North, and how many were in or on the brink of, administration, and how this could impact on neighbouring shops.

Cheap supermarket alcohol and patrons favouring city centre bars over local pubs have been cited as reasons for the pub trade crisis. However speaking to the South Belfast News, Mr Neill warned that it was not only licensees at risk from the difficulties faced by the pub trade but a host of other businesses.

“Every pub is struggling to survive in this economic climate although banks have been slower to push them into insolvency as that would require them to run the venue and they don’t wish to do that,” he said.

“One of the key issues here, which is important for areas such as the Lisburn Road, which is trying to increase visitor numbers, is that 70 per cent of tourists coming here will visit a pub.

“It’s in the vital interest of local businesses to have a healthy pub trade as if they are in an area for a drink or food then they will check out what else the place has to offer.

“More pubs in South Belfast closing their doors  – as in the rest of the city – will be bad for business all round.”

Despite the worrying time for pubs, Mr Neill praised councillors and council staff for recognising the pressures faced by the industry but told them further measures could be considered by the local authority to prevent further closures in the coming months.

These include ending the need for annual applications for entertainment licences due to the advertising costs, and officially supporting a lower VAT rate for the hospitality sector.

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