Isn’t this just a consequence of the archaic system of licence surrender* which infects the Northern Ireland pub industry? No better illustrated than when Wetherspoons wanted to open two brand new pubs in Belfast city centre and the cosy little cartel of existing bars objected and so, no new pubs.
Regardless of what you think of Wetherspoons, they reportedly spent £2 million on a single licence only for it to be rejected (which in turn means the licence is lost for reuse) which is damning. If the largest pub chain in the UK and Ireland who spent a blind fortune on two locations for these proposed pubs (now currently unoccupied and falling down) think it’s too pricey and not worth the hassle then what chance does anyone else have?
It’s also worth noting that Hospitality Ulster, who are bleating about pubs closing, support Licence surrender. Which rather makes them part of the problem.