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Londonderry Chamber urges Executive to engage properly with businesses ahead of reopening

Businesses in the North West have called for further clarity from the Executive on reopening ahead of 24 May.

The Londonderry Chamber is urging the Executive to engage properly with businesses over the coming weeks to avoid the situation that many hospitality businesses found themselves when outdoor hospitality reopened recently. At the 11th hour, some businesses had been told that their premises were not Covid-compliant according to the new regulations which permit outdoor eating and drinking.

The Executive has given 24 May as an indicative date for the further reopening of indoor hospitality and tourism as well as relaxations of mixing indoors. Ahead of the Executive’s latest review of the roadmap out of restrictions this Thursday, businesses are pleading for much greater clarity and specificity about exactly what they can and can’t do.

Londonderry Chamber President Dawn McLaughlin said:

“Last week’s reopening was an exciting moment for many of our businesses and it’s been a strong first week for traders in the North West. However, it’s important to keep in mind that we aren’t fully open until we’re all open. While we’re pleased for those who have got back to business, we need to bear in mind those businesses who are still unable to reopen and especially those who were told at the very last-minute that they had not met the new Covid regulations.

“Ahead of their latest review of the restrictions this Thursday, it’s vital that the Executive keeps these businesses at the forefront of their thinking. Everything must be done by our ministers to ensure that the indicative date of 24 May becomes a firm and immovable date. Our businesses have been hit hard enough over the past 14 months. Now’s the time for the Executive to give these businesses confidence and optimism for the future and commit to the full reopening of our economy.

“The Executive Office must also give full and detailed clarification on what regulations will govern how our businesses can reopen on 24 May. Everything must be done to avoid the incredibly frustrating situation that too many of our businesses found themselves in last week, particularly those in hospitality who have put in place stringent health and safety measures which protect staff and customers. It’s now up to the Executive to engage extensively with the business community ahead of 24 May and clearly explain what they must do.

“With the successful roll-out of the vaccine programme in Northern Ireland and more and more of our adult population now protected against the virus, there is no good reason or justification to keep our businesses closed past 24 May. The Executive must remain 100% focused on reopening.”