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Hospitality Ulster, the LVA and VFI have joined forces with Guinness Raising the Bar to launch #KEEPTHELIGHTSON campaign. As part of the campaign, pubs across the island of Ireland, north and south, have come together to simultaneously switch on their Christmas lights tonight.

Consumers have also been asked to show their support by sharing #KEEPTHELIGHTSON with images of their local lit up on social media.

Turning on their lights early ahead of the crucial Christmas period not only highlights the place of local pubs in the fabric of society, but also the struggle that publicans, bar–staff and their families are facing in order to keep the lights on. In many villages and townlands, the local pub may be the only beacon of light on dark winter nights.

Their prolonged closure due to Covid–19 enforced lockdowns serves as a physical reminder of the impact that Covid–19 has had not just on the pub–trade and wider hospitality industry but also on communities up and down the country.

The financial impact of Covid–19 pub closures has been hugely significant, with wet–led pubs in Northern Ireland allowed to open for only 4 out of the last 37 weeks after enduring several delays to reopening over the course of the summer. With around 1,200 pubs located across Northern Ireland, all were forced to close again on Friday 16th October and will remain closed until 27th November.

Pubs in Northern Ireland have put in place a range of measures in order to reopen safely from implementing social distancing, to following the strictest sanitisation protocols, arranging extra staff training, the provision of physical infrastructure such as Perspex screens, increasing signage and using new systems, tools and technology to create safe socialising environments in their outlets.

Liam Reid, Corporate Relations Director of Diageo Ireland, said, “The Guinness Raising the Bar fund has already begun supporting pubs with a variety of measures to assist them with safe reopening. This includes over 3,000 outlets who have received reopening essentials kits, with upwards of 87,500 litres of hand sanitiser and 30,000 staff uniforms and 700 outlets who have received items to create safe, weather–proof, outdoor spaces.

'We have also launched the Raising the Bar Helpline to provide emotional support and financial information to publicans, bar–staff and their immediate families who we know are suffering disproportionately at this time, while they once again wait for the chance to reopen safely.”

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, commented, “Pubs have invested heavily in ensuring their outlets are 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.

'Now all that these locals want is the chance to reopen safely on time for Christmas. As part of this joint campaign with the Guinness Raising the Bar fund 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.”

This campaign is being made possible by the €14M Guinness Raising the Bar fund, a two–year programme that has been available since June 2020 to assist pubs in safely reopening. Outlets can still register to receive supports by logging on to www.mydiageo.com.

Almost 5,000 outlets across the island of Ireland have already registered and availed of supports from the Raising the Bar fund since its launch in June.

Any pub that registers with the programme will receive a free reopening essentials kit, including 25L of Hand Sanitiser, Serving Trays, Uniforms & Take Away Cups and may also be eligible to receive free outdoor equipment such as parasols, windbreakers and awnings as well as support with staff training.

(source: http://lva.ie/)