Belfast embraces Operation Sit In
Belfast is bouncing back from Operation Standstill with Operation Sit In, a campaign to bring people in to restaurants, bars and pubs across the city.
Friday, 11 January 2013
As the planned loyalist protests threatened to stop movement in or out of the city on Friday night, social networks were buzzing with the hashtag that's all about bringing business into Belfast.
On Friday, #OperationSitIn trended for four hours on Twitter and it has garnered more than 12,000 tweets in less than a day.
The idea behind the movement is to sit in one of the city's many venues, enjoy dinner and drinks, and stay there until flag protestors disperse.
People have been using the hashtag to reveal their plans for the evening, promote messages of support for local traders and encourage others to stand up against the standstill.
Adam Turkington from Belfast is the man behind the hashtag but he said Operation Sit In started from a "random tweet" that's taken off.
"It's amazing how quickly people can respond to something if it involves a couple of pints," he laughed.
"I was thinking about all these people panicking about getting home and if they would just go to the pub for a couple of hours they wouldn't get caught up in it.
I think everyone feels a bit down and I think we need a wee reminder that Belfast is still fun.
"Operation Sit In has really taken off today, which is great. It's a question of making the best of the situation, which is what we do best here," he explained.
Lisa Millar is just one of those across the city taking part in Operation Sit In on Friday. She always meets up with her friends on Fridays, and for her this week is no different.
At around 5.30pm, just half an hour before the protests were expected to begin, she said she would be heading into the city centre, where she planned to stay for the evening.
"It's still Friday, I've worked all week and I meet up with my friends on Friday and I don't see why we should change our plans.
"We're worried that we will get caught in traffic and not get into the city centre," she explained.
As a trader herself, Lisa knows how tough a time this has been for local businesses having to face a drop in the number of customers and cancellations.
"I think it's important to support local businesses anyway but particularly at this time, January is a quiet enough month as it is for businesses without this," added Lisa.
Meanwhile Andy Rea, who owns two restaurants in the city centre - Home and Mourne Seafood Bar - said: "Operation Sit In is a great idea and we really hope it works tonight."
He added that they have had some reservations cancelled but are hoping the campaign means people can "walk in and grab a table where they can relax, have a glass of wine and worry about getting home safe later, when the protests have ended".