There has been a call for swift financial assistance for the hospitality industry suffering under the Covid-19 lockdown.
Restaurants and bars have closed their doors in line with social distancing rules in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Government has committed to pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the chief of Hospitality Ulster says the payments must be brought forward to save the industry.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said government will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.
However funding for the furloughed worker scheme is not due until the end of April.
Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill has now made an urgent call for government to bring forward the payment for furloughed staff.
“In normal circumstances, most small hospitality businesses only have two weeks’ cash reserves,” he said.
“But, with the gradual rundown of business before they were closed by the Prime Minister, these reserves were already under pressure, if not totally exhausted.
“This means that many pubs, restaurants and hotels have been unable to pay furloughed staff all or, in some cases, any of their wages.
“Time and cash are now running out for the majority of hospitality businesses and, if Government does not act now to bring forward payments, we will be back where we started, with businesses being forced to lay off staff.
“Whilst the Government grants are starting to come through for the smallest businesses, the majority of businesses have yet to receive any money, and businesses with a NAV over £51k are ineligible.
“Even premises that have received grants are seeing the money eaten up by outstanding bills and rents, much as the Prime Minister suggested when he announced the grants.”