Business Update: Getting back in the saddle

Operational recovery remains the priority for CQ BID business.

Whilst the ongoing health crisis has been the immediate priority, business  groups across Belfast are beginning to understand the steps needed to take forward recovery and prepare reopening plans.

The Chancellors recent announcement of an extended furlough scheme to 31st October has been a positive step. It not only provides a reassuring support mechanism to aid bounceback, but the offer alongside these measures to provide part-time furlough for staff was a significant boost.

This weeks NI Executive 5 step ‘road to recovery‘ plan identifies the measures and assurances needed to relax lockdown legislation. Concerns amongst business across the City has been a need for a timetable to aid recovery planning and businesses ‘rebooting’. Lead in times are crucial in any business sector and provide a degree of certainty to build upon.


Got your Grants?  (Deadline is 20th May) 

£10,000 Small Business Grants

  • Rental properties or NAV under £1,590 and below
  • NAV 15k and below

£25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Tourism 

  • NAV £15,000- £51,000

Other avenues of  financial support ?  

All NI applicable funding support has been handily collated by the team at NI Business Info.


Return to the Workplace

Workplace guidelines and measures prevent the transmission of coronavirus

As an employer you must protect the safety and health of everyone in your workplace. This applies to businesses who continue to operate under the current impact of coronavirus.

Health and safety law requires employers to do ‘what is reasonably practicable’ to protect their staff and members of the public.

The UK government, in consultation with industry, has produced ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidance to help to ensure workplaces are as safe as possible.

The guidance covers 8 workplace settings

British Retail Consortium have updated their advice for non-food retail stores.  You can download the updated information here.

RMI Architects based in CQ BID produced a document offering practical considerations on developing a ‘back to work’ plan here

Willis Insurance offer a HR guide to returning to the workplace here.

Tourism NI announces webinar support series

Tourism NI are continuing to do all they can to support our tourism businesses.  They have coordinated a series of tailored Tourism Enterprise Development (TED) webinars designed specifically for the NI tourism and hospitality industry at this difficult time.

Details of all upcoming Tourism NI webinar sessions can be found below and will be regularly updated in the coming weeks.

Book your spot here 


Business Resilience & Leadership in a Crisis  (6th May 2pm)

Key areas that businesses should consider at this time and what steps can be taken to ensure businesses can not only overcome COVID-19,  but will be in as strong a position as possible to respond when the opportunity comes.

Approaching Banks and Other Funders for Tourism Businesses (11th May 2pm)

Essentials for presentation to the bank; utlising other inmcoem avenues and other soruces of finance

Working Capital Management for Tourism Businesses (13th May 2pm)

The session explores how to manage cashflow in this period of uncertainty. Government Support, Payment hoildays, HMRC implications and negtotiating trade and debtors, undertanding fixed and variable costs will all be covered in this session

Covid 19 Cashflow for Sole Trader/Micro Sized Tourism Businesses (18th May 2pm)

Specifically at sole traders and micro businesses within the tourism and hospitality sector with a maximum of 5 employees.

Cashflow for Small/Medium Sized Tourism Businesses (18th May 3.30pm)

This webinar is targeted specifically at small and medium sized businesses within the tourism and hospitality sector with between 6 and 15 employees.


Maximise  your  TRAINING & LEARNING

At a time when there may be some business downtime or a change of pace to how your company operates ; jump straight in to our back catalogue of Lunchtime Learning sessions for a refresh and recap across all things digital marketing and social media or take a look at some of the great free courses and training to avail of.

BID Manager Blog: #RaiseTheBar

Cathedral Quarter calls on Government to #RaiseTheBar 

Raise The BAr Campaign #RaisetheBar

Destination CQ BID has joined over 300 BIDs, City Centre Management and representative organisations across the UK to reiterate further support for the Retail and Hospitality and Leisure sectors.

In a letter written to Minister for Business, Alok Sharma MP; a firm warning was given regarding the threshold of business support grants currently made available by Government.

Across the UK retail, hospitality and leisure deliver a combined £635 billion to the national economy, this cannot be ignored and they may be some of the slowest to recover industries during the recovery period.

The UK hospitality industry employs over 3.2 million people, that is 11% of UK jobs, making it the third largest sector in the UK.  This  accounts for £130 billion in revenue, 6% of all UK businesses and 5% of GDP.

The ask is clear, expand the rateable value threshold for retail, hospitality and leisure from £51,000 upwards, allowing further businesses the opportunity to access the £25,000 grant.


The local picture

“Cathedral Quarter recovery will be curtailed” says BID Manager Gareth Neill, with a significant amount of the publicans and hoteliers in the area not eligible for any fiscal support from The Executive grants scheme.

“It’s apparent across the Cathedral Quarter BID area the majority of our licensees and hoteliers will not be able to avail of the £25,000 business support grants due to the size of their NAV (Net Asset Value).  NAV is a crude mechanism with which to calculate, and concerns were raised at an early stage around this measure.”

Cathedral Quarter is only one area, this will be apparent across Belfast City Centre given the comparably higher NAV compared to the rest of Northern Ireland.

We would reiterate the sentiment of Hospitality Ulster and Belfast Chamber that Tourism and Hospitality sectors will be the hardest hit and the last to emerge from the lockdown measures and additional support is needed.   

Finance Minister Murphy announced that a further £40m fund was to be established to ‘target’  specific industry and sectors remaining outwith the current grants regime.

Gareth goes on to say “Whilst Hospitality is only one part of the ecosystem within the Cathedral Quarter; it does compliment and collaborate with a lot of additional businesses and adds to the appeal of many companies. organisations and SMEs locating here”

Between the cracks

Concerns remain about those who are slipping outside of the current financial mechanisms.

  • The Self-Employed Directors drawing dividends, particularly amongst our freelance community.
  • Business Owners with multiple sites; further impetus is needed to alleviate financial burden rather than for just one location!
  • Business owners who pay ‘all in’ rent/rates/bills
  • Voluntary and Community Sectors  await an approach and support framework
  • Arts and Cultural Organisations that make a large part of the City’s creative economy await formal announcement of  support for an already precarious sector
Out of lockdown and onto recovery… 

Whilst a slow moving beast we would recommend City partners commence this urgently once the NI Executive establish a framework post lockdown. Considerations needing further minister impetus include:

  • VAT. Encouraging SME growth during the recovery period  through raising the VAT registration limit could go a long way.
  • Business Rates.  An extension to the 3 month ‘holiday’ and further develop a means tested approach to  take this forward over a longer period
  • Start Up Businesses. Use the cheap borrowing powers of Government to help facilitate further  investment in the start up sector.




We recognise a number of concerns and have been lobbying with Business Groups to highlight these immediate gaps in the current financial support mechanisms to ensure not only survival but moving forward to the recovery period a debt burden does not loom over business operations for those missing out.

Training & Learning

At a time when there may be some business downtime or a change of pace to how your company operates ; jump straight in to our back catalogue of Lunchtime Learning sessions for a refresh and recap across all things digital marketing and social media or take a look at some of the great free courses and training to avail of.


If you’d like to discuss any of these issues you can contact Gareth Neill via

Business Updates: Grants & Claims

A month has passed since the Chancellor Rhisi Sunaks’  announcement to support UK Business with an employer job retention scheme and this morning HMRC went live.

As a Business Improvement District this is vital for sustaining local employers and providing confidence in business workforce to bounce back and we are deligthed to see this in opertaion. Further info can be found below relaitng to the Grants and Claim Schemes available.

A further vital cog to aid recovery and support for business has been lauched through Economy NI; a Retail,Tourism and Hospitality Grant will provide eligible busineses (with a NAV of between £15,0001- £51,000) providing grants of £25,000 during this diffcult economic period.  Whilst heir remains frailties with this scheme (we’ve outlined our concerns below) this is a positive step and one which we whole heartedly wlecome from our Exceutive  and will contunue to lobby for additonal assistance.


‘COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme’ 

(in a nutshell

Making a claim HERE

Checklist for the following information before you can proceed to step 3:

  1. The number of employees being furloughed
  2. The dates employees have been furloughed to and from
  3. Details of employees – the name and  National Insurance Number of each furloughed employee
  4. Your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  5. Your Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference, Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number  as appropriate for your entity
  6. Your UK bank account details
  7. Your organisation’s registered name
  8. Your organisation’s address


HMRC Job Retention Scheme Calculator  can help in assessing your claim in advance of making an application and a worthwhile exercise to avoid errors.

HMRC Webinars are being provided all this week to help with the online systerm and getting your claims and paperwork in check.


Business and Hospitality Grants – Tourism, Hospitality and Retail

Grant applciation scheme has gone live here and provides a comprehensive overview regarding those eligible within the NAV of £15,001 and £51,000

Eligible businesses include:

List of busineses

Some quick takeaways

  • Businesses with multiple premises are only eligible for one grant at £25k
  • Rates Reval 2020 may result in your property being included within the £10k /£25k scheme. Further info on this will be provided on website.
  • Verification checks will be needed so it’s recommended to complete paperwork ASAP.  May 20th is scheme closing date

Download the Business Grants FAQ


What the BID is doing

We recognise a number of concerns and have been lobbying with Business Groups to highlight these immediate gaps in the current financial support mechanisms to ensure not only survival but moving forward to the recovery period a debt burden does not loom over business operations for those missing out.

Notable issues raised to date include:

  • Business tenants who pay ‘all in one’ (Rates, Rent charges etc) to property agent or landlord;  what can be done to support the tenants –  it seems and additional  online portal will be established to navigate this. Again, timings are a concern
  • Grants for more than one property:  currently limited to one property- particularly for retail, hospitality and tourism grants this needs a wider approach similar to SBRR (Small Business Rate Relief Grants)
  • NAV in excess of £51k ? Particularly in CQ BID; these are well established and successful businesses that will not able to avail of financial support
  • Start-Up Businesses: those that raise private investment are finding it difficult to raise capital- these are grass root businesses that will aid recovery and support the business ecosystem as we recover as a City.
  • Charities, Vol and Community organisations await further clarity on the support from the Chancellor issued over 10 days ago, some of these businesses are frontline organisations that will deliver vital support and services during the crisis and support the City through the recovery period a local support scheme is urgently needed !
  • Business Rates: the 3 month holiday is widely considered to be ineffective for cash flow purposes ( esp. to those who pay by d/debit and receive a discount). Parity with business community across England, Wales and Scotland is needed and again vital to recovery and future planning and forecasting purposes.


Training & Learning

 At a time when there may be some business downtime or a change of pace to how your company operates ; jump straight to our back catalogue of Lunchtime Learning sessions for a refresh and recap across all things digital marketing and social media or take a look at some of the great free courses and training to avail of




Please email us any additional concerns to and we will ensure these are channelled to the relevant bodies, organisations  and we will help shout about them !

Stay healthy, stay safe and keep sane !


Kind regards




Gareth Neill

BID Manager

Destination CQ Business Improvement District

109-113 Royal Avenue | Belfast |BT1 1FF

T: 028 90314011 | M:07912028443 |




HMRC COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme

Businesses across Cathedral Quarter and Smithfield & Union are being encouraged to sign up for an in-depth look at the HMRC COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme this coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

This webinar provides guidance on the COVID-19  Job Retention Scheme which will help support businesses and employers dealing with the economic impact of COVID-19 – including furloughed workers, scheme eligibility, how to calculate a claim and more.

HMRC is hosting a live webinars at various times  on the COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme on Monday 20th , Tuesday 21st  and Wednesday  22nd April 

During this webinar they will  be taking a look at:

  • furloughed workers
  • who can apply for the scheme
  • following the rules of the scheme
  • how much may be claimed
  • how to claim and what you’ll need to claim.

Book your slot here

HMRC and have both provided a range of resources for business that can help steer your organsiation throug this difficult period. More Info

We’ve got your back…

The BID has a commitment to sharing the right information and we only signpost to reputable sources through our daily COVID-19 Business Guidance. 

Information overload can creep in, thus we are also asking you to explore our list of Training & Support tools which are super handy, FREE and a great resource to upskill yourself and learn something new.


£35m Streets Ahead III project delayed

£35m Streets Ahead III project further delay causing serious problems for Belfast City Centre – Cathedral Quarter Chair says.

Following the receipt of a letter today from The Department for the Communities confirming further delay to the Streets Ahead III project, Cathedral Quarter Trust and Destination CQ Chairman, Paul McErlean said:

‘At a time when the city centre is already under serious pressure following the Primark fire, any delay to investment, particularly of the quality of the Streets Ahead project is most unfortunate. The message from today’s letter is that a key decision can’t get made because we do not have a mechanism to make such a decision.

This is having a fundamentally negative effect on the northern part of Belfast city centre and the Cathedral Quarter which has already been partly cut off by the Primark cordon.

‘In the short term, we either need the Secretary of State’s new legislation to become law as soon as possible assuming it will allow decisions like these to get made and our politicians should also take note that their inability to restore devolved power is being felt on the streets of Belfast in this very tangible way.’

Gareth Neill, Destination CQ Bid Manager added:

‘It is very clear, despite the recent excellent work of Belfast City Council and other City stakeholders critical intervention is urgently required to continue to stimulate investment and development in this significant area of the City.

DCQ delighted to support Global Shapers

On Friday 17 August, 150 Global Shapers from across Europe and beyond will arrive in Belfast for the 3-day annual conference, Shape Europe.

This is the first time that the Shape Europe conference has been held outside of mainland Europe. This year, the theme of Shape Europe is ‘Views from the Faultline’, focusing on the future of Europe, the impact of the UK exiting the European Union and exploring solutions for modern issues currently impacting on European economies, on societies and on the environment.

To mark the occasion, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum welcomed Shapers with a video outlining the importance of the theme and highlighting the pertinence of young leaders meeting in Belfast to discuss the future of the Europe.

Addressing the Shapers, Professor Schwab said: “I know you as young people will express your courageous voice in making sure that the forces of reconciliation and of peace, which are such precious goods, remain intact and can be even strengthened in the future.

Continuing, he said:

“We need a Europe which is flexible, yes. But we need a Europe which also knows that in the context of today’s world, we can only have a voice if it is a united voice. And new border lines and new separations do certainly not contribute to making Europe a strong force in the world.”

Professor Schwab’s comments set the scene for discussions that will take place over the weekend. The Global Shapers will be welcomed to Northern Ireland at an opening reception with the Lord Mayor of Belfast in City Hall. Then, during the two main conference days, Shapers will participate in several sessions, including keynote address from World Economic Forum Young Global Leader Mark Pollock, a Q&A plenary session with Brexit expert Dr Katy Hayward and interactive workshops on global and social activism and modern voting and political engagement techniques, as well as learning from the unique Northern Ireland case study.

Local and international experts leading the sessions include:

  • Wadia Ait Hamza, Head of the Global Shapers Community
  • Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Former Barrack Obama campaign lead
  • Fionna Smyth, Head of Humanitarian Advocacy and Campaigns, Oxfam UK
  • Conor Houston, Houston Solutions
  • Grainia Long, Belfast’s Resilience Commissioner
  • Bronagh Hinds, Senior Associate with DemocraShe
  • Mary McKenna, NI Technology entrepreneur and angel investor

Speaking on behalf of Belfast Global Shapers, Hub Curator Jessica Caldwell said: “We are delighted to be welcoming 150 Global Shapers to Belfast this weekend. In addition to Shapers travelling to join us from right across Europe, others will be travelling from Columbia, South Korea and Pakistan to get involved in discussions that will help shape the future of our global economy and societies across the world.

“No matter what your opinion on Brexit, political campaigning and social activism, we are at a pivotal point in time for politics, democracy and global change. We are pleased so many Shapers wanted to join us this weekend – it just shows that the younger generation is keen to play a leading role in talking about the impact of Brexit and shaping the future of Europe and the world.

“As a group of volunteers, we could not have delivered Shape Europe in Belfast without the support and guidance from our incredible local sponsors. We would like to say a huge thank you to them all – Invest NI, Deloitte, Belfast City Council, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, Climate Reality Project, Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Elastic Energy, Destination CQ, Ormeau Baths, 4C Executive, Eagle Labs, On the Square Emporium and Ireland Craft Beers.

“We would also like to thank the World Economic Forum and the Global Shapers team for the opportunity – we cannot wait to show-off the very best of what Northern Ireland and Belfast City has to offer.”

Cathedral Quarter are getting ready to rock out for Culture Night

The Business community in Belfast’s historic Cathedral Quarter are getting ready to rock out for Culture Night!

The Destination CQ BID (Business Improvement District), one of three in Belfast’s City Centre, is located at the epicentre of Culture Night, which is set to take place this year on 21 September. A staggering figure of over 100,000 people are expected to flock to the city this year for Culture Night to enjoy over 250 free family-friendly events.

BID members, which includes local business, arts organisations and members of the hospitality industry, are bracing themselves once more for record figures descending upon the Cathedral Quarter for the city’s 10th Culture Night programme.

Last year, Culture Night Belfast delivered a £1million boost to the local economy over just one evening, with 100,000 people attending, including 18,000 from outside Northern Ireland.

Gareth Neill of Destination CQ BID welcomed the return of Culture Night Belfast and said local organisations were looking forward to:

DestinationCQ supports culture night“As our name suggests, Destination CQ happily finds itself right in the geographic and spiritual heart of Culture Night!

Not unlike Culture Night a decade ago, the Business Improvement District for the Cathedral Quarter was established in 2016 with a remit to promote the vitality and vibrancy of this unique area of Belfast.”

“Every successful modern city across the globe has a vibrant arts and cultural sector, making an incredibly valuable contribution to local economies, local attractiveness and quality of life. Culture Night demonstrates that Belfast is no exception. Destination CQ passionately supports and recognises the incredibly important role that the cultural and creative industries play in making

our city shine, both economically and culturally.”

Tzvetelina Bogoina Seenan of local business Kopyright added:

“As a local business owner and Destination CQ BID member, I’m proud to support our city’s cultural organisations, events and activities; it is our ambition to support and assist where we can the sheer creativity, innovation and cultural assets which help make Belfast a local city with international clout.

Where better place to start than with Culture Night Belfast – the biggest event in the city’s cultural calendar. We’ll be down amongst the 100,000 plus people on 21 September, throwing ourselves into the crazy magical mix that is Culture Night!”

Culture Night Belfast takes place on Friday 21 September from 1pm-10pm.

For further information on Culture Night Belfast go to

Paul & the Meanie win Great Belfast Busk Off!

Newry Duo Crowned ‘Belfast’s Best Buskers’ in Great Belfast Busk Off

Music, merriment and a city full of fun and frivolity was the order of the day at the recent Great Belfast Busk Off.

And it was two young musicians from Newry, ‘Paul and the Meanie’, who took home the crown of ‘Belfast’s Best Buskers’, entertaining the crowds with their rock hits and cover classics.

Organised by Destination CQ – the Business Improvement District for the Cathedral Quarter –in partnership with Belfast City Council, Help Musicians NI and Belfast One, the inaugural event saw 25 musicians including duos, choirs, bands and acapella groups, compete for the crown.

The event forms part of the Belfast City Council ‘Summer of Music’ season which has around 25 events across the City during August and September.

With a commitment to developing the unique Cathedral Quarter area as a great destination for tourism, culture, creativity, innovation, and business, Destination CQ organised this event in a bid to animate the streets and to showcase and celebrate the wealth of musical talent from across Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the event, Gareth Neill Destination CQ BID Manager commented: “This event has been truly magnificent and brought so much fun and life to not only the Cathedral Quarter, but right across the City.

“We were delighted with the interest and support in what we hope will be an annual event – the talent on display was outstanding.

“We worked hard with our partners and local businesses such as Dawson Music, Half Bap Recording Studios and OhYeah Music Centre to create an event that was engaging, fun and inspiring to other musicians and performers.

“Northern Ireland has such a rich pool of musical talent having produced global superstars such as Snow Patrol, Ash, The Undertones and Van Morrison – and I believe we may have uncovered some future stars here today.

“I would like to thank our charity partner, Help Musicians NI, for their involvement. They carry out such fantastic work in supporting the health of the music industry in Northern Ireland and supporting young talent and events like this.

Gareth concluded: “I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners, Paul and the Meanie and to thank all of those who took part. We now look forward to Culture Night in a few weeks’ time where we will see more musicians and artists unite to bring such a fantastic atmosphere to our capital city.”

Throughout its 5-year term Destination CQ BID will carry out various projects to enhance the Cathedral Quarter area through 4 themes, Create, Celebrate, Invite and Inspire.

Belfast’s Culture Quarter Comes to Life with Caribbean Social

Writers Square in Belfast played host to a wonderful display of Reggae music, Afro-Caribbean culture and delicious street food at the recent Caribbean Social event in the City.

Organised by Destination CQ – the Business Improvement District for the Cathedral Quarter – in partnership with ACSONI (Afro Caribbean Support Organisation NI) and Belfast City Council, the event was in celebration of Caribbean Diversity Week and part of Belfast’s Music Summer Season.

The event saw over 1,000 people unite to enjoy a range of local and international artists perform colourful dances including Notting Hill Carnival legends, Tropical Heatwave and the rhythmic beats of the Steel Drum Maestros. The event also saw DJ sets performed alongside live acoustics and storytelling.

Speaking at the event, Gareth Neill Destination CQ BID Manager said “It has been such a truly fantastic event today and brilliant to see so many people come together to celebrate and enjoy the
rich cultural diversity that Belfast offers.

“Writers Square was absolutely buzzing, and it was fantastic to see this beautiful public space used for such an event.

“One of our aims is to ensure that public spaces like these are brought into regular use for those visiting, working and living in the city.”

Gareth concluded:

“Destination CQ BID would like to invite more partners to team up and deliver more vibrant activity like this across the Cathedral Quarter.”

With a commitment to developing the unique Cathedral Quarter area as a great destination for tourism, culture, creativity, innovation, and business, Destination CQ organised this event in a bid to celebrate cultural diversity, animate the streets and to showcase one of the fantastic public spaces Belfast has to offer.

The Caribbean Social event formed part of the Belfast City Council ‘Summer of Music’ season which will host a total 25 events across the City during August and September, ranging from acoustic
picnics, music tours, to morning raves, busking competitions and opera.

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