Coronavirus: Business closures and restrictions in Northern Ireland

News article

Measures to fight coronavirus place restrictions on businesses and services

To reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Northern Ireland Executive has introduced measures which place restrictions on how businesses operate and which mean that some must close to customers on-site.

The relevant authorities, including the police, have been given the powers to enforce the measures – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

All business and venues that are in operation should follow guidelines on working safely.

Businesses which must close to customers on-site

If you are responsible for operating any of the following types of business you must keep it closed. 

  • theatres (except for drive-in live performances)
  • nightclubs
  • concert halls

If a business listed above is part of a larger business, the larger business may continue to operate if it closes those parts of its business that are required to close.

Livestock auctions or markets, whether for slaughter or breeding, are allowed to operate. 

Businesses that may operate

With a small number of exceptions (see list above), retail businesses may open - ie businesses offering goods for sale or hire in a shop - including, but not limited to:

  • food and drink
  • clothing
  • footwear
  • accessories
  • books and stationery
  • flowers and plants
  • music recordings and instruments
  • textiles
  • toys and games
  • sports goods
  • jewellery
  • cosmetics
  • toiletries
  • antiques and related items 

In addition to the retail businesses listed above, the following businesses may open:

  • pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists
  • petrol stations
  • motor vehicle repair and MOT services
  • taxi or vehicle hire businesses
  • banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cash points savings clubs and undertakings which by way of business operate currency exchange offices, transmit money (or any representation of money) by any means or cash cheques which are made payable to customers
  • post offices
  • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health
  • veterinary surgeons and pet shops
  • outdoor markets and auction houses
  • repairers of goods, including electrical and electronic items, shoes, clothing, furniture, tools, jewellery and related items
  • car parks
  • public toilets
  • self-catering accommodation (including, holiday apartments, homes, cottages, bungalows, caravan parks and campsites)
  • hotels and other tourist accommodation (including, guesthouses, guest accommodation, B&Bs and hostels)
  • businesses that provide hot or cold food for consumption off their premises
  • animal care or welfare services, including boarding, stabling, grooming, exercising, sitting or training animals
  • retailers or wholesalers of motor vehicles, including cars, light goods vehicles, motorcycles or vans; medium, large or articulated goods vehicles, including trailers; caravans or motorhomes; agricultural vehicles and equipment; mining, construction or civil engineering vehicles; buses or coaches
  • restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members’ clubs
  • cafes, including workplace canteens unless there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food
  • bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs (subject to restrictions - see Food and drink businesses or operations below)
  • public houses (subject to restrictions - see Food and drink businesses or operations below)
  • museums and galleries
  • betting shops
  • spas
  • nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers and tanning services, electrolysis or acupuncture
  • massage parlours
  • tattoo and piercing parlours
  • indoor fitness studios and gyms
  • outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms
  • competitive sports with numbers to be determined by the venue in line with public health advice
  • indoor sport and leisure facilities, including skating rinks and leisure centres
  • bingo halls
  • amusement arcades
  • cinemas
  • indoor arcades
  • community centres and halls
  • swimming pools in leisure centres, hotels and private facilities
  • active venues including bowling alleys
  • indoor and outdoor funfairs
  • soft play areas

Food and drink businesses or operations

The indoor spaces of pubs and bars are permitted to be used for the provision of substantial meals with the serving of alcohol being ancillary to this. Permission to open is on a table service basis, ie customers will not be permitted to order either food or drink from the bar area of an establishment.

Pubs and bars with outdoor spaces, such as beer gardens, can serve alcohol (where their licence permits them to do so) in these spaces on a table service basis.

Bars and restaurants in private members’ clubs and social clubs are permitted to open, to serve food and refreshment in line with the guidelines for the wider hospitality sector.

Outdoor performances and screenings

You may provide for drive-in concerts, theatre performances cinema screenings. Everyone attending for this purpose must remain inside the vehicle in which they arrived at the premises for the duration of the concert, performance or screening.

Future business openings

You can find provisional future dates for the opening of business sectors on our timeline for NI business reopening.

For guidance and practical steps on keeping your workplace COVID-19 secure, see working safely in different business settings and workplace safety guidelines and social distancing.


First published 24 March 2020