PUBS, hotel bars and restaurants in the North of Ireland will have to shut at 11 pm from today, Thursday, October 1 under new rules for the hospitality sector.
They will come into force at midnight on Wednesday.
Stormont ministers gave details of the decision in the assembly on Tuesday.
No alcohol or food will be served after 10.30 pm and all customers must leave the premises by 11 pm, said First Minister Arlene Foster.
She said there could be “no exceptions” to the rule, and it would also apply to weddings and other social events. No late licences will be permitted.
Hospitality leaders had urged a later closing time for the North of Ireland than in the rest of the UK, where it is 10 pm.
Colin Neill, from Hospitality Ulster, said the announcement was “another blow to our industry”.
“The sector is going to lose hours, it’s losing staff and it has lost live music and needs to be given a fighting chance,” said Mr Neill.
“A curfew is not ideal, but we in the hospitality sector will do all we can to make this work, which hopefully will be only a temporary measure.”
The restriction must be kept under continuous review, he said.
Mr Neill said his organisation had lobbied the government for a 23:30 closing time, in line with the Republic of Ireland.
“My biggest fear is that they’ll just bypass my industry altogether,” he said.
“They’ll bypass the pub and go straight to a house party.”
Mrs Foster said the executive recognised the risk, but that gatherings in homes were currently illegal, following new restrictions imposed last week on household visits.
She stressed enforcement was a “priority” for ministers.
“We do not want to go there, we’d prefer that everyone works with us, but enforcement has a role,” she added.
“We will be looking at the levels of fines we have.”
The First Minister said she regrets the time limit had to be imposed, but medical evidence showed “people socialising later in the evening is considered to increase the risk of the virus spreading”.
“People adhere to rules less strictly in venues where they are used to less strict social distancing,” she added.
In the North of Ireland, off-licences and supermarkets can sell alcohol until 11 pm most days.
The cut-off is 10 pm on Sundays.
The executive said it had taken the decision to impose a 11 pm hospitality closing time in order to ensure a “consistent approach”.
In the Republic, the cut off time for pubs and restaurants is 11.30 pm.