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Business hit again as violence rises

01 January 2000
Business hit again as violence rises

By David Shrimpton

The fortunes of restaurants and hotels in Northern Ireland have dipped again as business continues to reflect the volatile political situation.

Hospitality businesses had hoped that the peace process would bring stability and growth, but the violence that followed last week's Drumcree stand-off again caused widespread disruption.

Loyalist paramilitaries forced some restaurants to close in support of protests designed to paralyse Northern Ireland, said Brian McMillan, chef-patron of McMillans restaurant near Belfast.

He too decided to close every evening last week, but for economic reasons. "Reservations were being cancelled because people were too scared to come out," he said. "There were lots of car hijackings."

Midday business had, however, remained strong, and on Monday the restaurant was expecting 100 diners for lunch after an Orange parade near by.

But the violence, culminating in the murder of three young brothers in a suspected loyalist petrol bomb attack, had cast a pall over a bank holiday weekend which traditionally had a carnival atmosphere, said McMillan.

"It's just terrible," he said of the murders. "The atmosphere's one of revulsion. You don't even feel like coming to work. I think everyone's devastated, on both sides."

McMillan said that, if the political situation failed to improve, he might shut the restaurant for two weeks next July. Many already close during the parades season, especially in Belfast, where trade over the period is slow.

Jane O'Hara, assistant manager of the Brown Trout inn, County Londonderry, said some guests from the south of Ireland had cancelled, and food sales from passing trade were down. But the golfing and salmon-fishing trades had held up well.

Stephen McCorkell, general manager of the Culloden hotel outside Belfast, said that a four-day conference for 40 delegates had been called off, although bookings for July as a whole were up.

Belfast's Europa Hotel was full, as journalists flew in to cover the political crisis.

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