24th Apr 2020 in Business

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 gareth.neill@destinationcq.com

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