Indoor Hospitality

Planning to eat or drink indoors at a restaurant or bar today? Here's what you need to know

Bring your Covid cert, your ID and your face covering.

AMID LAST MINUTE changes to regulations, indoor hospitality businesses are reopening from today.

Some businesses will be opening their doors to customers this week for the first time in 15 months.

New legislation passed by the Dáil and signed into law last week by President Michael D Higgins means only those with proof of Covid-19 immunity will be able to sit indoors for service in cafes, bars and restaurants.

Failte Ireland’s guidelines for pubs and restaurants that intend to open for indoor service were published over the weekend, and have since been updated after a last-minute change to contact tracing requirements.

Key rules for indoor hospitality

Under the new legislation, businesses are required to ask for and check a customer’s proof of immunity, which includes the EU Digital Covid Certificate and HSE Covid-19 vaccination record. 

Regulations require that the name and contact number of the lead person or solo person at a table be taken for contact tracing purposes.

There are a number of other rules in place for indoor hospitality, including:

  • A maximum of six persons aged 13 or over are permitted at a table. This limit of six does not include accompanying children aged 12 or younger. The total combined capacity at a table cannot exceed 15 overall.
  • Physical distancing of 1 metre, with mitigation measures in place.
  • Customers can avail of table service only and may not approach or order from the bar or other counter.
  • Face coverings must be worn by customers at all times other than when seated at their table.
  • Employees are to wear face coverings/masks at all times.
  • Music performance, dancing or other entertainment or mingling between tables is not permitted.
  • Multiple tables cannot be booked indoors.
  • Premises must be clear of all customers by 11.30pm.

The Fáilte Ireland guidance states businesses need to ensure processes are in place and staff are trained to implement the operational guidelines and ensure the business is operating within the approved legislation.

If taking bookings, businesses must inform customers that everyone at the table will have to provide relevant proof of  full vaccination or immunity from a recent Covid-19 infection. Those under 18 who are accompanied by a parent/guardian do not need to provide proof of immunity. 

When you arrive at a cafe, bar or restaurant

All businesses will have a defined entrance point with a staff member in place.

Before a customer is allowed to enter the seating area the proof of immunity for each adult will be checked. 

Customers will also be asked for photo ID, such as a driving licence or passport, to ensure the they are using their own proof of immunity.

Businesses may refuse access where people cannot offer proof of immunity or recovery or cannot demonstrate that their certificate relates to them. Under the regulations, if businesses do not operate on this basis, they may be liable for fines or closure.

Staff must record time of arrival, the size of the party and confirmation that all customers – aside from children – have been verified to have immunity. For contact tracing purposes, the name and contact number of the lead person or solo person at the table must be taken. 

Once this is done, customers can be shown to their table and can remove their face coverings once seated. 

The 105 minute time limit has been removed from regulations, though some businesses may still set their own limits.

Delays and uncertainty

The late decision-making on regulations meant that some businesses decided not to reopen for indoor dining this week as they did not have time to assess staffing needs or implement training for the new Covid immunity checks. Others decided, for the safety of their unvaccinated staff, to delay opening their indoor spaces until further progress is made with the vaccination programme.

Joe Sheridan, chairman of the Galway Vintners Federation of Ireland, told The Journal that one in every eight pubs will remain shut because the guidelines are too strict.

“The big losers again are the thousands of family run, small, traditional pubs across the country who cannot use their counters to serve customers. Not every pub is a ‘gastro’ pub with table service,” the publican said.

“Where is the ‘vaccination benefit’ in this plan? If vaccinated customers can’t be served at the counter by vaccinated staff?”

The new legislation and regulations have been a source of controversy and prompted protests recently in Dublin’s City Centre.

A number of businesses reopening this week have already become targets of those opposed to the requirement for customers to show proof of immunity, reporting false bookings, abuse of staff over the phone and social media abuse.

Some publicans are said to be worried that there might be a physical presence of protesters when pubs reopen.

Lists of restaurants opening today are being shared on social media and the message-sharing app Telegram, with users encouraging people to book in for meals – and then leave when asked for their Covid certificate as a form of protest.

JP McMahon, restaurateur behind Aniar, Cava and Tartare in Galway, has had to introduce a credit card policy for bookings at his restaurants due to fears about false bookings.

He announced on social media last week that “due to the continual threat of fake bookings from people who disagree with the government’s new regulations regarding vaccination for indoor dining, we are asking for credit card details for all booking across the three restaurants. Apologies for any inconvenience.”

McMahon said that his restaurants “are getting a phenomenal amount of emails giving out, saying we’re policing this two-tier society. And then people are saying we are going to book your restaurant when you are open and not going to turn up.”

A small number of protesters turned up outside one of McMahon’s restaurants last week, and said they will return again this week.

- With reporting by Ceimin Burke and Aoife Barry.

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