The Government’s decision to wait until next week to decide whether pubs should reopen on August 10th is “deeply unhelpful” and “adding real stress” to publicans and staff across the country, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has said.
The Cabinet is due to decide on Tuesday whether or not to proceed with phase four of the reopening roadmap.
Phase four would mean pubs which do not serve food could reopen as well as gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors.
Donall O’Keefe, chief executive of the LVA, which represents publicans in Dublin said guidelines for reopening pubs were supposed to be published three weeks ago.
“They were then meant to be published this week. They weren’t. So we now have pubs across the country having to guess if they will be able to open on August 10th and also having to guess what rules will then apply to them,” he said.
“This isn’t conducive to effective preparation. We see absolutely no reason why the guidelines couldn’t have been published earlier.”
Mr O’Keefe said by August 10th pubs will have had “no income” for just under 150 days, which is more than 40 per cent of the year.
“In Dublin alone at least 2,450 pubs jobs have already been lost in that period and 11 pubs have gone out of business. Further delays will result in more job losses, more stress on these publicans and their staff and more businesses closing their doors for good,” he added.
“The pub sector is the last industry to reopen, despite being the first to close. We have been singled out. If this treatment is to continue then the Government needs to be forthcoming about what they plan to do to protect the future of a sector which continues to be deprived of an opportunity to earn a living at the request of the Government.”
The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents publicans outside the greater Dublin area, said public health is the number one priority but “as the experts learn more about the virus it’s clear a blanket ban on pubs opening is not the answer”.
“In Australia, where there is a substantial increase in Covid cases, pubs in Victoria will remain open because the authorities view pubs as a safe, controlled environment where social distancing can be enforced,” said Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the VFI.
“They view house gatherings, which are now banned, as more dangerous. We need that type of approach here in Ireland.”
Mr Cribben said publicans have been forced to order stock and rehire staff “once again” before the Government has announced its decision on reopening pubs.
“No other sector is being treated in this manner and, it should be noted, this is the third deadline publicans have faced with no guarantee they will be allowed open,” he said.
“The delay in publishing guidelines is a further blow to our members. With just one week to the planned reopening, publicans remain in the dark about what specific protocols will be introduced. For instance, can customers sit at the bar counter? This is a hugely important issue for rural pubs and if the counter is off limits many publicans say they won’t bother opening.”