Pubs unite for Christmas light switch-on

Pubs across Northern Ireland will simultaneously switch on their Christmas lights this Friday at 5pm, in an effort to highlight the sector's desperation to reopen its doors in time for the festive period.

There is still over a week to go before the planned removal of the current coronavirus restrictions affecting the industry, but as the possibility of introducing more measures is discussed at Stormont that reopening date could be postponed.

The switch-on event is designed to highlight the role of local bars in society and the struggle publicans, bar staff and their families face to keep the lights on during the pandemic.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said pubs had invested heavily in ensuring their outlets were ready to reopen safely.

"Whether it's physical infrastructure such as PPE, Perspex screens and hand sanitiser or training for staff, we know that they have done the necessary to ensure that pubs can reopen safely alongside other sectors such as retail," he said.

"Now all that these locals want is the chance to reopen safely on time for Christmas."

Restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus have meant drink-only or 'wet' pubs have only been allowed to open in Northern Ireland for four out of the last 37 weeks.

Around 1,200 bars across Northern Ireland were forced to close again on Friday October 16 and are set to remain closed until November 27.

Mr Neill added: "We hope that the public will also show their support for a safe reopening of their local as we enter a Christmas period that will be decisive in keeping the lights on for pubs in Northern Ireland."

Bars in the Republic of Ireland will also switch their lights on on Friday evening.