Pubs of Ulster, the trade group for Northern Irish pubs, this week pledged its support for the campaign and is set to spread the message in the national media and lobby its parliamentary representatives.
“The industry is in freefall with significant closures,” said Pubs of Ulster chief executive Colin Neill, adding that “99% of the pubs here are owner-occupied so the banks hold great sway”.
He said: “About 18 months ago we had 1,500 pubs and predictions are that this has dropped to around 1,200. The pub trade is in a critical condition and that’s why a VAT cut is vital.”
Neill said Northern Ireland’s tourist board figures showed that 80% of tourists visit the pub. “No-one comes to Northern Ireland for the sunshine so if we are pushing an economic agenda of tourism — then that is us.
“And we need some help in the form of a VAT cut. It will help create jobs. We will be writing to all the ministers shortly. Because of devolution it is not often we can fight a common cause but this is definitely one we can.”
Meanwhile, Brighton & Hove City Council has backed the campaign. In a letter to Brighton & Hove Licensees Association, Councillor Lizzie Deane, of the Green Party, said: “We greatly value the fact that pubs and clubs offer an environment that exercises an element of control over drinking levels.
“We recognise they are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with low prices and offers in supermarkets and off-licences.
“It is for this reason that the council has participated in a lobbying letter to the Treasury requesting a reduction in VAT to pubs and those operating in the hos-pitality industry.”
The campaign also appeared as the lead news item on the JD Wetherspoon website this week — one of the most popular pub group websites.
Visit the site by clicking here .