Coronavirus: Stormont Executive to decide on drink-only pubs reopening

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Pubs which only serve drink have not been allowed to reopen in Northern Ireland

The Stormont Executive is set to decide whether to allow drink-only pubs in NI to reopen when it meets later on Thursday.

Pubs that do not serve food have been given an indicative reopening date of Monday 21 September.

The date has already been pushed back twice by executive ministers due to concerns about the virus.

About 600 pubs in Northern Ireland that do not serve food are still awaiting the green light to open.

At present, drink-only pubs can only serve customers outdoors.

The hospitality industry in Northern Ireland has argued for a tightening of restrictions and tougher enforcement against establishments that break the rules, to allow more law-abiding pubs to reopen.

Last week, representatives from the sector met executive ministers to call for regulations to be put in place, as opposed to guidance.

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It is understood the executive will discuss whether to approve the 21 September date when it meets on Thursday afternoon.

In the Republic of Ireland, drink-only pubs are due to reopen on the same date with the exception of Dublin, which remains under tighter restrictions due to a rise in cases.

Stormont ministers are also likely to discuss the imposition of new localised restrictions across parts of Northern Ireland at Thursday’s executive meeting.

  • What is yet to open in NI?
  • Hospitality Ulster’s plea for pubs to reopen

On Wednesday, the restrictions were given legal force – but caused some confusion as new areas in the Lisburn and Castlereagh council area have been added to the list of affected areas.

Previously, it had been announced that the rules would only apply to the Belfast council area, Ballymena, BT28, BT29 and BT43.

The executive has maintained that postcodes will be added and removed as required, but DUP MP Gavin Robinson questioned whether it was the health minister who had chosen to place tighter restrictions on the area or if the decision had been taken at a full executive meeting.

The new rules are expected to last for at least two weeks, and will be regularly reviewed by the executive.

BBC News