Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Rising rates bills ‘crippling’ rural hospitality sector – McNulty

Rising rates bills will place extraordinary pressures on the licensed trade and hospitality sector and lead to the closure of rural pubs, SDLP representative Justin McNulty has claimed.

Mr McNulty has met with officials from Land and Property Services (LPS) to express his concern, and that of some local publicans who, he says, feel their businesses are being unfairly rated when compared to similar premises in more built-up and affluent areas.

“Industry, retail and economic experts point to a change in our eating and drinking trends and this is changing the shape of local pubs and restaurants.  For many years there was a very clear definition between a pub and a restaurant, now we tend to see more pubs offering food, with many telling me that they couldn’t survive without the income brought from food,” he explained.

“However government has so far been unable to change and adapt to the changing landscape of our pub and hospitality sector.  Pubs are punished for providing food, instead of supporting the local industry, the rates burden is crippling them.  Change is needed and it is needed fast before more businesses fold.”

Making the case for rural-based establishments, Mr McNulty said: “I pressed LPS on the need to ensure that the burden is fair and to press for an understanding that pubs serving food, particularly those in rural communities, are very different to a restaurant in Belfast, which has access to a large customer base.

“In the cases which we have referred to LPS, they have agreed to reconsider the valuations and take into consideration the environment and locations they are operating in.  I would urge local publicans who have seen their rates bill jump in recent years, particularly if serving food is now a major part of their business, to get in touch and we can refer their case to LPS for reconsideration,” he added.