'Two to three' businesses closing in Northern Ireland each week amid cost-of-living crisis

Shutters down, hard fought businesses closed.

It’s an all too familiar site across Northern Ireland in 2022.

The cost-of-living crisis in plain sight as prices rise and lives continue to be changed.

Soaring prices are leaving many family-owned businesses with no choice but to close their doors for the last time.

One of the latest to close is Tuckers, which has been on the Falls Road in west Belfast for the last four years.

Once a bustling meeting place in the heart of the community, now shut for good.

“Most of hospitality has been hit from the start of Covid," said former owner Dale Tucker.

"Any small business is getting it harder than bigger companies. So what is going to happen when we lose all of our small businesses?"

It is now estimated, according to trade body Hospitality Ulster, that two to three hospitality businesses are closing in Northern Ireland every single week.

Dale Tucker told UTV's Stewart Robson there is not enough financial support for businesses. Credit: UTV

“To me personally, it is killing me seeing that we can no longer provide for the community of Belfast,” added Dale.

“People at home are struggling, paying bills. There is not enough financial support across the board. Our electricity bills have gone through the roof.

“We were paying £900 for three months, we are now paying close to £2,000 so it is hard.

“It is hard to keep the shop afloat when all of this is going on.”

It's a position that's reflected by so many businesses across the country.

Tony O’Neill owns Coppi and Buba in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

He says he is having to adjust to keep his business running smoothly.

“Every single item has gone up,” he said.

“Factor in that wages have risen very substantially and also energy costs. Electricity and gas are through the roof right now. We are [paying] more than double than what we were paying.

He added: “Constantly week by week we are restructuring the model of the business to make sure it works and to make sure we are here in a year’s time.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance said: “The Finance Minister has repeatedly made the case to Treasury that they must act to support businesses facing soaring energy prices and crippling costs.

“Last month, the Finance Minister along with Finance Ministers in Scotland and Wales urged the Chancellor to utilise the levers they have at their disposal to addresses the significant gaps in support for businesses, this included calling for a reduction on VAT on fuel and energy bills.

“The Finance Minister has also raised the detrimental impact the removal of the hospitality VAT reduction has had on businesses with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive, Colin Neill says he expects the situation to get worse before it gets better.

“We have seen two or three businesses a week closing here, you just have to look at social media,” he said.

“My fear is that when we get to autumn that will accelerate.

“Our prices are continuously going up. There is only so much we can absorb and then we have to pass it on.”

As the threat of rising costs and inflation continues to loom large, many places may be forced to make that life-changing decision of pulling the shutters down for the last time.

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