The leaders of three key Belfast city centre stakeholders have issued a joint welcome back message to returning visitors ahead of the reopening of retail and most hospitality venues on Friday but have urged shoppers to prioritise safety at all times.
The managing director of Belfast One – the Belfast City Centre Business Improvement District (BID) – has joined the chief executive of Belfast Chamber and Lord Mayor of Belfast City Council to encourage people to take sensible precautions to protect themselves, other visitors and shop and hospitality staff.
Kathleen McBride, managing director of Belfast One, which has invested almost £4 million in projects to enhance, support and promote the city centre over the last five years, said:
“It’s good news for our 800 businesses in the city centre that they can reopen during this crucial Christmas trading period but regrettable that wet bars remain closed. Safety measures have been put in place and investments have been made to keep customers and staff safe.
“We know that many people want to come into town and support local businesses and local jobs after what has been a year of unprecedented challenges for our city centre business community.”
Mrs McBride said she was urging everyone to think about their own safety and that of others as they enjoy shopping and dining in town.
She added: “It’s important to follow all public health advice, including wearing facemasks and regularly sanitising hands. Hand sanitising stations are available in stores and on city centre streets.
“Belfast One is working in partnership with Belfast City Council’s cleansing department to ensure the city is as clean as possible in the run up to Christmas. Belfast One’s dedicated ‘Clean for Christmas’ team is carrying out specialised cleaning with a focus on shop front areas, disinfecting and power washing.
“The two teams have been working tirelessly to ensure the city has been kept clean during the most recent lockdown and to make sure we are ready to showcase Belfast at its best on reopening.”
Mrs McBride said City Centre Beat PSNI officers, sponsored by Belfast One, Belfast Chamber and Translink, will be patrolling the city centre and liaising with businesses to address any issues or concerns.
Belfast Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey said: “This is a crucial period for retailers who have had such a challenging year due to the ongoing pandemic, so it’s positive to see retail being able to reopen in the run up to Christmas.
“However, I would appeal to everyone to continue to follow the public health advice; if you’re out shopping, wear a face covering, sanitise your hands often, and remember to keep your distance. It is so important that we don’t let our guard down and that we all continue to take steps to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
“Council and our city partners have been working hard to ensure that people can come into the city centre and shop safely, with measures in place to help staff and customers stay safe.”
Belfast City Council has installed signage across the city centre, reminding people of the public health messages, and many shops and businesses are displaying a ‘confidence mark’ to reassure customers that measures are in place to help keep people safe.
Simon Hamilton, chief executive of Belfast Chamber, said: “Businesses in Belfast city centre have experienced a tough year but they are looking forward to reopening again this week and serving the public once more at this important time of the year for everyone.
“Retailers and hospitality businesses have invested millions of pounds in making their premises safe for staff and customers and, as ever, they combine to create a unique mix of small independents and big brand names as well as great places to grab a coffee or have lunch or dinner.
“Belfast Chamber is pleased to join with Belfast One and the Lord Mayor in encouraging people to safely enjoy our city. Our businesses are open. They’re safe and they and their staff need your support.”