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Explainer: How will pubs and restaurants work when they reopen on 29 June?

Pubs and restaurants serving food are expected to reopen in Phase Three

WHEN PUBS AND restaurants reopen on 29 June, they’re going to look completely different from how they did just 3 months ago.

What exactly is changing though? How will Covid-19 restrictions impact the experience of punters until bars and pubs that don’t serve food are finally opened on 20 July?

New guidelines from Fáilte Ireland released last night give details on how pubs are going to work.

Physical Distancing

Similar to how supermarkets and other businesses have worked, all pubs and restaurants must enforce physical distancing.

The two-metre rule will be made more flexible and can be reduced to one-metre for both tables and customers if specific requirements are met. 

Physical distancing isn’t required for members of the same household, but one-metre distancing is necessary if there are people at the same table from another household.

Tables and booths inside the premises should be rearranged to fit the new regulations and must be a minimum of one-metre apart. 

These new requirements include regulating entry to encourage pre-booking, rather than turning up on the evening.

Extra signage should be placed throughout the venue, with both floor markings and wall signs. Plexiglass screens should be placed at both counters and tills to protect workers and customers.

The guidelines request that additional hygiene facilities are created if possible, like pop up handwashing or sanitizing stations. 

Frequent cleaning of toilet facilities and often touched surfaces is also required by the regulations.

Speaking on Today with Sarah McInerney, Fáilte Ireland’s Registrar and Accommodation Development manager Tara Kerry explained that social distancing will be slightly different with walk-ins from the street.

While pre-booking will allow you to be seated a minimum of one-metre away from someone outside your household, if you walk-in you must be seated two-metres apart.

“If you walk in off the street, you will have to be two metres apart from the person you are actually with unless you’re part of the same family unit,” said Kerry.

Where table service is unavailable, physical distancing will be encouraged and plexiglass screens will be in place between the customer and server or bartender. 

105 minutes

In the three weeks between Phases Three and Four, customers will only be able to spend a maximum of 105 minutes at any one premises. 

They must be served a “substantial meal” costing at least €9.

An additional 15 minutes will also be allocated where people can leave, the tables can be sufficiently sanitized by staff and new customers can enter without mixing.

When all pubs return on 20 July however, this 105-minute timeframe will be removed, according to Fáilte Ireland. 

Speaking this evening however, chief medical officer Dr. Tony Holohan said this guidance for the opening of pubs in Phase 4 has not yet been fixed.

“We don’t see pubs being in the same phase as restaurants. I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, we know the difference between a pub and restaurant. I think everybody in this country knows the difference in the pub and restaurant,” Holohan said. 

“We haven’t said any guidance at the moment in relation to what will apply in relation to pubs at some future point.

The kind of activity that would ordinarily happen in a pub environment is among unfortunately the most risky in terms of transmission of virus. We’ve been clear about that, and that’s the reason why we would have always held pubs operating in the way pubs would operate for the very final phases of our guidance, but what advice and guidance we have in place then in support of the operation of those pubs is still work we have to do and set out to government. So I wouldn’t be pre-empting that at this point.

Physical distancing

On 29 June however, front of house staff will be managing physical distancing and ensuring that customers aren’t gathering in groups inside the premises.

One substantial change is that for every group, one member must provide their name and contact details to the business. They should also keep a record of who was in the group, in case it’s needed for future contact tracing. 

All details will be kept secure by businesses for one month before they can be deleted.

According to the guidelines, all customers will be asked to remain seated unless they are going to the toilet, paying for their meal or leaving the premises.

It’s recommended that separate entrances and exits are used, to stop close contact as much as possible. 

Face Coverings

While the government has recommended the use of facemasks by workers returning to work, they are not mandatory.

On Today SMI, Kerry said that it will be up to the businesses themselves whether or not workers will wear facemasks.

“If in the event a bar area was just too small for any form of social distancing, there may be a requirement at that stage for facemasks. It again will be down to each individual business.”

The guidelines do say that employers and workers should keep an eye on the public health guidelines in relation to masks – and if they do wear them, they should not be shared between employees.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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