News article

Coronavirus: Timeline for NI businesses reopening

24 July 2020


A timeline of when businesses in Northern Ireland can reopen as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased

To slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Northern Ireland Executive introduced measures placing restrictions on how businesses operate. 

The legislation, known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, became law on 28 March 2020.

Easing of restrictions

On 12 May 2020, the Executive published a five-stage recovery plan to ease restrictions. The individual phases outlined are based upon exiting lockdown safely alongside the health, wellbeing and safety of people.

As lockdown restrictions are lifted during each stage, more businesses will be allowed to reopen. All future business opening dates announced by the Executive are based on their ongoing assessment of the control of the transmission rate of coronavirus and are subject to change.

This timeline highlights those businesses that can open (subject to restrictions) in addition to where local employers and employees can find guidance on keeping themselves and their workplaces safe. 

From 24 March 2020

Some businesses can trade, with restrictions on what they can do. These include:

  • Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members’ clubs.
  • Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.
  • Public houses.
  • Cafes, including workplace canteens.

Some businesses can operate with customers on-site, under a legal duty to follow social distancing measures. These include:

  • Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops.
  • Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists.
  • Homeware, building supplies and hardware stores.
  • Petrol stations.
  • Car repair and MOT services.
  • Bicycle shops.
  • Taxi and vehicle hire businesses.
  • Banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cashpoints.
  • Post offices.
  • Funeral directors.
  • Launderette and dry cleaners.
  • Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical and health services, including services relating to mental health.
  • Veterinary surgeons and pet shops.
  • Agricultural supplies shop.
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery, drop off or collection points, where the facilities are in the premises of the above businesses.
  • Car parks.
  • Public toilets.

Online retail can remain open and postal and delivery services are allowed to run as normal.

From 27 March 2020

The following can operate with customers on-site, under a legal duty to follow social distancing measures:

  • Off licences and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries).

From 18 May 2020

Some large outdoor-based businesses are permitted to reopen from 18 May 2020, under a legal duty to follow social distancing measures. These include:

  • Garden centres and ornamental plant nurseries.
  • Recycling centres.

Businesses with associated cafes and restaurants in these sectors, eg garden centre cafes, can only offer takeaway or collection.

From 8 June 2020

Certain outdoor non-food retail businesses are allowed to open from 8 June 2020. These businesses include:

  • new and used car retailers
  • retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries and trailers
  • retailers of caravans or motorhomes
  • retailers of agricultural or other large machinery

Also, certain retail businesses with lower customer density, which meet criteria around standalone retail outlets and stores situated within retail parks (but not within the confines of a shopping centre) can reopen from 8 June 2020. These businesses include:

  • retail of electrical household appliances
  • retail sale of computers, peripheral units and software (but excluding the retail of video games)
  • retail sale of audio and video equipment
  • retail of telecommunications equipment
  • retail of household furniture and lighting and other household articles
  • retailers of carpets, rugs, curtains, wall and floor coverings

This will only apply where retail outlets with lower customer density have direct street access or direct access within a retail park.

For more detail on the criteria for this phase of restrictions being eased - see Coronavirus: Executive sets out plans for retail to reopen from June.

From 12 June 2020

All goods retailers in Northern Ireland can reopen from 12 June 2020, provided that they follow the necessary safety measures - see Coronavirus: Full reopening of the goods retail market.

From 26 June 2020

Certain self-contained accommodation businesses can reopen from 26 June 2020. These businesses include:

  • Holiday and home parks.
  • Caravan sites.
  • Self-catering properties.

Read more on Coronavirus: Key parts of the tourism and hospitality industry to reopen.

From 3 July 2020

The following tourism and hospitality businesses are permitted to open from 3 July 2020:

  • Guesthouses, guest accommodation, B&Bs, hotels and hostels.
  • Restaurants, cafés, coffee shops.
  • Visitor attractions.

From 3 July 2020, the indoor spaces of pubs and bars will be permitted to be used for the provision of substantial meals with the serving of alcohol being ancillary to this. Permission to open will be 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, will be able to 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 will also be permitted to open, to serve food and refreshment in line with the guidelines for the wider hospitality sector.

However, at this stage hotel spas and leisure facilities are not permitted to open.

Read more on Coronavirus: Key parts of the tourism and hospitality industry to reopen.

Also from 2 July 2020, betting shops are permitted to open.

From 6 July 2020

The following service businesses are permitted to reopen from Monday 6 July 2020:

  • nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers and tanning services, electrolysis or acupuncture
  • spas
  • massage parlours
  • tattoo and piercing parlours

This is subject to the ability of businesses to meet social distancing and hygiene requirements.

The relaxation pertaining to spas does not apply to thermal treatment aspects of spas, including saunas and steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools and cold and ice rooms.

From 10 July 2020

The following service businesses are permitted to reopen from Friday 10 July 2020:

  • indoor fitness studios and gyms
  • outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms
  • bingo halls and amusement arcades
  • cinemas

From 11 July 2020

Outdoor horse racing and equestrian competitions can resume from July 11 with only those needed for the event being able to attend.

Outdoor competitive games and sporting events can also start from July 11.  This covers both grassroots and professional competitive games and events. No spectators are allowed.

This easement is on the basis that governing body protocols are in place, that they are adhered to and that everyone in the sports sector takes responsibility for and complies with hygiene and social distancing directives to ensure a safe return to sport.

From 17 July 2020

The following service businesses are permitted to reopen from Friday 17 July 2020:

  • indoor sports and leisure facilities
  • leisure centres
  • skating rinks

From 24 July 2020

The following service businesses and facilities are permitted to reopen from Friday 24 July 2020:

  • community centres and halls
  • swimming pools in leisure centres, hotels and private facilities
  • bowling alleys
  • indoor and outdoor funfairs

Wet treatments in spas, such as saunas, steam rooms and hydrotherapy pools are permitted to resume.

Spectators are enabled to attend outdoor competitive games with numbers to be determined by the venue in line with public health advice.

    From 7 August 2020

    Subject to the control of the coronavirus transmission rate, the following will be permitted to reopen from Friday 7 August 2020:

    • soft play areas

    From 10 August 2020

    Subject to the control of the coronavirus transmission rate, the reopening of indoor pubs and bars selling only drink (wet pubs) will be permitted from Monday 10 August 2020.

    These easements will remain under review until ratified by the Executive ahead of the indicative date, based on the emerging situation.

    From 28 August 2020

    Subject to the control of the coronavirus transmission rate, socially distanced indoor spectators will be permitted from Friday 28 August 2020.

    These easements will remain under review until ratified by the Executive ahead of the indicative date, based on the emerging situation.

    Other businesses

    Plans for the reopening of other businesses, subject to the Northern Ireland Executive assessment of the control of the transmission rate of coronavirus, will be published as soon as the information is available. 

    Advice on workplace safety

    For guidance and practical steps on how local employers and employees can keep themselves and their workplaces safe, see:

    The Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has produced a risk assessment template showing the approach a business should take to keep a workplace safe and healthy. See the workplace risk assessment template for COVID-19.


    First published 4 June 2020