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Publicans: 'It would be a body blow if Dublin pubs have to remain closed'

Yesterday, Cabinet agreed that ‘wet’ pubs can reopen their doors on 21 September.

Ministers have highlighted that the number of people in ICU and hospital remain low, while there has only been one death in the last 17 days.
Ministers have highlighted that the number of people in ICU and hospital remain low, while there has only been one death in the last 17 days.
Image: Leah Farrell

PUBLICANS HAVE SAID if pubs are prevented from opening in Dublin and Limerick due to the Covid-19 situation it would be a “body blow” to the sector.

“It would be heartbreaking for us,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the Licensed Vintners Association.

Yesterday, Cabinet agreed that ‘wet’ pubs can reopen their doors on 21 September.

However, ministers are understood to be concerned Dublin and Limerick are on “knife-edge” in terms of the number of positive cases being confirmed, however they are also taking into account that the number of deaths, and patients in ICU and hospital, remain low.

Minister for Business Leo Varadkar said this morning that he is more confident that rural pubs can reopen than Dublin pubs. 

A government spokesperson confirmed yesterday that the reopening of pubs will depend on the epidemiological situation – the incidence of the disease – but added that “at this point in time”, publicans can plan for 21 September.

“If there is a change in the situation between now and then it won’t just affect pubs, it will affect all businesses,” the spokesperson added.

She said the government will be monitoring the situation during the next two weeks.

The spokesperson also indicated that the draft guidelines for pubs, published over the weekend, could be tweaked slightly, but should largely remain the same.

The guidelines state that everyone must be out by 11.30pm, and there are to be no time limits where 2 metre distance can be maintained.

There were emotional scenes outside the Leinster House yesterday as publicans demanded “fair play” from the government. Currently, 3,500 pubs across the country remain closed, impacting approximately 25,000 employees as well as their families.

“Clearly we see the trends in the infections as well. We’re very concerned by them. We obviously will follow whatever public health advice and guidance is in place at that stage, we are hopeful given the Cabinet have announced a national reopening date for the 21st of September, we will get open on that day,” said O’Keeffe.

A further 307 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland yesterday.

The Department of Health also reported one further death associated with the disease. 

There are currently six people in ICU, and 49 in hospital who are confirmed cases.

While there have been reports of possible restrictions being imposed if the trajectory does not improve, government sources are keen to highlight that they are taking into account that the number of deaths, and patients in ICU and hospital, are still no where near where they were back in March.

The rate over the last 14 days is also a key metric being monitored at government level.

It shows that Kildare remains the county with the highest Covid-19 rate over the last 14 days at 73.71, followed by Limerick at 70.81 and Dublin at 59.38.

When lockdown was introduced in Laois the rate stood at 69.66.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has also urged people not to obsess about the daily figures in recent days, stating that over the next few months, there will be peaks and troughs.

Plans to reopen

Publicans are planning to reopen on 21 September – despite the warning about restrictions and delays.

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“All hospitality businesses should have been treated equally… That’s still our position. We are hopeful though now in light of the announcement that we will all get to open on the 21st of September, clearly if the public health situation in Dublin dictates otherwise that would be a body blow. It’d be hard to describe how heartbreaking it would be for the trade, but we will follow the public health advice,” said O’Keeffe.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said is was “important we arrived at this point”, when speaking about the publicans getting a reopening date.

He said pubs in Ireland have remained closed, while all other pubs in Europe reopened many months ago, and remain open despite hikes in the number of cases.

The talk of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ pubs, and what rules apply to each, has been confusing for the public, he said, adding that it is important now that public health advice is clear and understandable.

Pubs will be allowed to reopen “subject to strict guidelines”, with the minister saying the pub experience won’t be the same as it was before the pandemic.

The minister warned that “none of this trumps advice that NPHET may have to give in relation to any part of the country now or into the future”.

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