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Hospitality industry says delayed reopening of sector would have a 'catastrophic' impact on sector

Both restaurateurs and vintners’ representatives have called on the Government to explain the impact of the Delta variant.

Image: Shutterstock

A STALLED REOPENING of the hospitality sector due to concerns about the Delta variant would have a “catastrophic” impact, members of the industry have said.

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurants Association of Ireland explained that an eleventh hour declaration by Government would financially ruin restaurants and bars.

Padraig Cribben of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said the comments by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that there was a risk of an extension to restrictions have caused “serious concern” in the sector.

Donnelly said this morning that it is “too early to say” if a further reopening of society, due on 5 July, will be delayed by a few weeks due to the Delta variant of Covid-19. 

The Delta variant now accounts for 20% of all of last week’s case numbers.  

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also said today that the Government can only make a decision with the most up to date data. 

The variant now accounts for 20% of all of last week’s case numbers. 

NPHET is due to advise the Government next Thursday on the epidemiological situation in Ireland, ahead of the next phase of reopening due on Monday 5 July.

Varadkar said variants of concern will also have to be considered, stating that the “dark cloud” is the Delta variant.

The government is looking to data in the UK, which is far more advanced in its reopening than Ireland, and has a higher rate of the Delta variant, said Varadkar.

He added it is concerning that there has been between a 30%-40% increase in cases and hospitalisations there over the last week, but also highlighted that this is “from a very low base”. 

Cummins called for an urgent meeting with Government to get clarity on the situation.

“Any delay in reopening indoor hospitality on 5 July will have a catastrophic economic effect on restaurants, cafes & pubs specifically those in tourist area’s.

“Indoor hospitality is currently open in Irish hotels and across all of Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry.

“Businesses are currently in planning stage with regards to restocking, rostering and preparing to reopen on 5 July – a last minute, late postponement will have financial impact on terms of loss of stock.

“We are seeking an urgent meeting with Government to clarify the situation,” he said. 

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Cribben said that 5 July will mean a return to work for more than 25,000 staff and the opportunity for pubs to trade during a busy summer season.

He explained that the eight weeks until the end of August is a vital period for publicans as it remains the only realistic opportunity to salvage something from 2021 and tide them over until next year.

“The comments from Government ministers that  the 5 July reopening may be delayed is causing huge upset and concern in the hospitality sector. With only two weeks to go it’s not acceptable to treat our members in this manner,” Cribben said.  

“There are just eight weeks in the summer season for pubs to recoup some of the massive losses accumulated over the past 15 months, so to tell publicans they may lose any of those weeks will devastate the trade.

“The business generated in July and August will sustain most pubs through the winter and into next year so for Government to delay reopening during the summer will impact the sector to a much greater degree than, for instance, a delay in January. 

“Publicans are busy rehiring staff and ordering stock so this new uncertainty places them in an impossible position. They need immediate confirmation that reopening on 5th July will proceed as planned.

“The fact Government will not make a final decision until Friday 2nd July – just three days before reopening – illustrates how detached Ministers are from the realities of running a business. The mental stress this uncertainty is placing on our members cannot be overstated,” he added. 

Cribben said that Ireland is “lagging behind” Britain and mainland Europe and added that it was now critical that 5 July go ahead as planned. 

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