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'A hammer-blow': Hospitality sector lashes out at last-minute decision to delay reopening of indoor dining

The hospitality sector is not happy.
Jun 29th 2021, 4:05 PM 32,052 99

THERE HAS BEEN widespread condemnation of the Government’s announcement that indoor dining and drinking will be postponed due to concerns over the Delta variant of Covid. 

Earlier today, Micheál Martin said indoor hospitality is to be delayed until at least 19 July when the government will propose a plan for how the reopening will take place. 

NPHET also said in its advice to government that indoor dining could initially return for fully vaccinated persons only before a wider reopening at a later point. 

Pubs and restaurants across the country had been banking on the 5 July being the day their doors reopened. The latest delay has been severely criticised by businesses already struggling with the closures.

Retail Excellence said that the Government’s decision to postpone the reopening of indoor dining was a “hammer-blow” for the hospitality sector.

Retail Excellence, which also represents over 300 cafes and coffee-shops throughout the country, said that the decision would have a significant knock-on effect for the retail industry in Ireland and that it was “extremely unhelpful” that the Government had not given a timeframe for the delay.

Fergal Doyle of Retail Excellence, said: “This delay is a hammer-blow for the hospitality industry in Ireland and will have significant ramifications for business owners and staff around the country.

“We understand that this is a tough decision for the Government to have to make, but this does not lessen the impact on business owners who are fighting for their survival after a terrible year and it is extremely unhelpful that we do not have a timeframe for a reopening plan.”

“The hospitality and retail industries are dependent on each other in many respects, and this decision will have a huge knock-on effect on retailers while coffee-shops and cafes in particular are unable to operate indoors. This must be the very last delay for a beleaguered industry that will need major support from the Government in the coming months.”

Ireland the outlier

Drinks Ireland said today’s decision makes Ireland an outlier – the only nation in Europe not to have indoor dining.

From 2 July, when Greece opens indoor hospitality, the UK and all other EU countries will allow dining and drinking inside venues with measures in place.

In the context of a need for clarity, Drinks Ireland highlighted the logistical operation that has taken place in recent weeks to get pubs ready for the 5 July date.

It takes five weeks to brew and deliver beer and an estimated 70,000 kegs of beer were produced.

It said that the recommendation of using Covid Certificates for vaccinated people, or people who have recovered from the infection, is a last-minute moving of the goalposts and something that should have been planned for months ago, if necessary.

Patricia Callan, Director of Drinks Ireland said: “We are disappointed by today’s announcement and the continued disruption to one of the worst-affected sectors in our economy.

“The default position to lock down or delay reopening of the hospitality sector, with very little notice, is no longer appropriate in the context of the vaccine roll-out and our position as a clear outlier in the EU. In the immediate term, we need an opening date from Government, that it sticks to, as well as clarity on the metrics to allow this to happen.”

Vaccinated – Unvaccinated

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said it will reject any move to separate the vaccinated from the non-vaccinated, describing the suggestion as “ridiculous and unworkable”.

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2.55570290 Source: PA

It also said that protests “must be on the cards”.

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said: “This latest suggestion from NPHET that pubs and restaurants should police who is and isn’t vaccinated is utterly ridiculous and unworkable.

“NPHET has lost the run of themselves and possibly the entire country this time.

“It is completely bizarre that they would introduce such a system this late and basically try to panic the entire country into accepting a process that would create a two-tier society.

“Does anyone in NPHET actually take into consideration the real-world implications of these outlandish ideas at all? We can’t take them seriously after this.”

The unexpected proposal has also caused unease over its legal aspects.

Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy said enforcing the system would be “extremely difficult”.

He told Today with Claire Byrne: “I have reservations and can really see the problems in trying to implement a system around people being vaccinated and not being vaccinated.

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Garreth MacNamee

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