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The return of the bar: The raft of new measures for hospitality have been revealed

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said guidance would be practical and that common sense will apply.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

Updated Oct 21st 2021, 9:48 PM

NIGHTCLUBS ARE TO operate at 100% capacity and up to 1,500 people can stand at live gigs under updated government guidelines, Tourism Minister Catherine Martin has confirmed.

Talks between stakeholders and government officials reconvened this evening on hospitality guidelines for nightclubs, pubs, live events and restaurants.

Speaking to reporters this evening, Minister Martin said the measures will be reviewed in a number of weeks “because we have to be cognizant at all times of the scenario with the pandemic”.

For live gigs, Martin said the 1,500 people will be able to stand with the combination of 100% seating.

In hospitality settings, tables are limited to ten adults but multiple bookings can be made, and the 11.30 closing time is gone.

For bars and nightclubs, bar service can resume with socially distanced queues. However, customers will have to return to their table to have their drinks.

“What we don’t want is congregation at the bars and we would hope that customers would respect that, and want that because there is the element of public health safety that needs to be respected,” said Martin.

Fáilte Ireland published the guidelines in full this evening.

Regarding pubs, it states: “Organised indoor events and mass gatherings*are permitted where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 within previous 6 months), or accompanied minors (under 18). There are some limited circumstances when this may not be necessary e.g. where a person is well-known to the business.”

Regarding nightclubs, the new rules state: “Nightclubs may reopen with 100% capacity with a Covid-19 Pass. The passes, contact tracing data collection and wearing of face masks except when eating, drinking and dancing will make up some of the rules.

A full breakdown of the new Fáilte Ireland rules can be found here.

Responding to the news today, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), Padraig Cribben, said the partial reopening of bar counters is a welcome development that will ease the staffing burden on publicans.

However, he said that anomalies remain in the guise of 100% capacity permitted in nightclubs while social distancing in pubs will significantly reduce capacity in those venues.

 “The new guidelines allow customers order at the bar counter which will have a big impact for publicans struggling to find lounge staff. We also welcome the reopening of nightclubs and note clubs must follow the same restrictions as pubs in relation to bar counters.

“While we welcome the reopening of night clubs we now have the anomaly where clubs can operate at 100% capacity but pubs must operate at reduced capacity because customers will not be allowed stand or congregate at the bar.

This will lead to a farcical situation where 1,000 people can dance or stand around drinking in a nightclub but a small number of  customers cannot sit at the bar of their local pub or, indeed, play darts or pool.

 ‘Chaos’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told a meeting of his party last night that the guidance due to be issued today for venues reopening on Friday would be practical and that common sense will apply.

It follows days of confusion in the hospitality sector over what measures will be put in place following Tuesday’s announcement on the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

Donall O’Keeffe, CEO of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has described the situation as “chaotic”.

“It is a ridiculous situation, a chaotic situation, that we don’t have guidelines for their operation before we open,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

A core tenet of the Government’s strategy is to ensure that Digital Covid-19 Certificates are rigorously checked in venues around the country with details on capacity and seating at live events still to be ironed out.

Speaking on Virgin Media’s Tonight Show on Wednesday, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the onus will be on hospitality businesses to check documentation.

“This is your way of being open and staying open,” said Harris. “If you want to open, if you want to be able to stay open, if you want customers coming in the door and money coming into the till you’ve got to play ball.”

Harris said Government will be ramping up enforcement to ensure businesses are checking for documentation over the coming days.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said this morning that he favours venues checking people’s Digital Covid-19 Certificates as well as their ID. 

Dr Holohan warned that nightclubs and pubs are high-risk environments and said that nightclubs reopening provide an opportunity for greater social mixing.

“The message that we have is…now that society is going to be open, almost anything you wish to do is going to be possible.

“It’s really important that you’re mindful of your own personal behaviour, and how that protects you as an individual from picking up this infection, particularly if you’re somebody who’s not vaccinated.

“And then also be mindful…that your behaviour would put other people at risk. So if you’re symptomatic, you shouldn’t be going out to a nightclub, you shouldn’t be going out to it, you should be staying at home, you should be getting a PCR test.”

‘Restrictions’

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said “nobody can rule out” the reintroduction of pandemic restrictions.

Speaking on the fringes of an EU summit in Brussels, Varadkar said: “The CMO was clear about that in his letter.

“I’ve always been clear that I thought we’d have to get through at least another winter before we could say that the pandemic was safely behind us.

“So, nobody can rule out a return to restrictions. But we do have 800 more beds in our hospital system than we had before the pandemic, we have surge capacity in ICUs, we have the ability, if needs be, to use the private hospitals.

“It is possible for us to ride out this wave, to get through this second peak of Delta without having to reimpose restrictions, but that can’t be guaranteed unfortunately.”

It comes after the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged people over the age of 60 to restrict their movements.

The Tánaiste also said that things may not return to the “old normal” until next spring.

“That involves people trying to do their daily activities but take precautions as necessary,” Varadkar added.

“The simplest thing is to tell people to stay at home, the second easiest is to go back to normal, the bit in between which is risk litigation and reducing is a bit more difficult and that’s a challenge we have.”

He said he hoped to return to a nightclub this side of Christmas “if things improve”.

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“I’m not going to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do, I don’t think that’s the right message at the moment,” he added.

“What I would say to people is that if they are going to a nightclub over the weekend, what I would say is that if you’re symptomatic, don’t.

“If you’re not vaccinated, don’t go. Make sure that you wear masks as appropriate while walking around, and consider taking an antigen test as well.”

Speaking in Brussels, Varadkar added: “The projections are clear.

“We are in for a difficult couple of months.”

He added that while people should “try to get on with our lives”, they should do so in a safe way.

Meanwhile, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins has said the number of people allowed at a table in a venue will increase from six to 10. 

Multiple bookings will be allowed, normal trading hours will resume. 

 

With reporting by Garreth MacNamee

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