Full details of Stormont's financial support package for hospitality businesses hit by Covid rules

  • WATCH: Full report by Jim O'Hagan

Stormont ministers have agreed a package of financial measures for hospitality businesses affected by the latest restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Eligible businesses include nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, bistros, snack bars, pubs/bars, social clubs or private members’ clubs. Sports clubs are not eligible.

Ministers had faced criticism for agreeing restrictions on Wednesday without announcing an accompanying support package.

The new measures will kick in on Boxing Day, and includes nightclubs closing, and the rule of six and table service will be reintroduced in bars and restaurants.

The NI Executive also issued guidance warning people to reduce indoor mixing to three households, in hopes of driving down the spread of the new Omicron variant.

It comes as the UK recorded its highest infection case numbers in a single day - topping 10,000 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy outlined details of the scheme on Twitter on Thursday.

He wrote: “As our society and economy once again face huge challenges @dptfinance will deliver an Executive agreed support package of £40m for over 3,000 hospitality businesses.

“Grants of between £10k and £20k will be delivered by Land & Property Services.”

The scheme was approved by First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill using urgent procedures.

The grants will be allocated related to the net annual value (NAC) of businesses’ estimated rental value.

Businesses with an NAV up to £15,000 will be eligible for £10,000 grants. Businesses with a Nav between £15,000 to £51,000 will be eligible for £15,000 while those with a NAV over £51,000 can claim £20,000.

Mr Givan, who said more than 3,200 businesses would be eligible, added:

First Minister Paul Givan said: “The Executive has moved rapidly to deliver a £40 million package for the hospitality industry.

“This will benefit over 3,000 businesses with grant payments being made of between £10,000 and £20,000 dependent on the rates valuation of the business.

“This is a demonstration of our commitment to supporting the hospitality industry and those workers who are being impacted by the current challenges around Covid.

“The Executive will continue to look at what other measures can be put in place to support other parts of the economy that have been impacted during this time.”

Business advocates and politicians had criticised the Executive for announcing new measures without detailing a financial support package.

The new rules come on top of measures introduced in Northern Ireland earlier this month, including a Covid pass for entry to large events and licensed venues.

The UK's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, had earlier tweeted that it was "disappointing" to see the Executive close hospitality businesses without offering a support plan.

And the Belfast Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Simon Hamilton, a former DUP minister in the Executive, said businesses had already suffered significant losses due to consumers fears about the prospect of a lockdown.