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'No time limits' for beer gardens says Varadkar as Dublin's Merrion Row gets summer on-street dining

Varadkar said he hopes that indoor dining could return in “early July”.

Dubliners enjoying outdoor dining last October.
Dubliners enjoying outdoor dining last October.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated May 19th 2021, 6:12 PM

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said there will no time or capacity limits on pubs and restaurants when outdoor hospitality returns in three week’s time. 

The government confirmed last month that pubs and other hospitality will resume outdoor business from 7 June, with the previous €9 meal requirement also scrapped

In the summer of last year only restaurants and pubs serving food were allowed to reopen after the first lockdown, with industry guidance stating that a ‘substantial meal’ costing €9 was required to meet this requirement. 

This requirement is not in place for this latest phase of reopening but there have been questions over other restrictions that may be in place.

The Enterprise Minister said today that Fáilte Ireland guidelines on these matters will be published soon. 

He said the guidance for the upcoming outdoor hospitality will include some form of social distancing but not limits on capacity.

“To give you a rough idea, it’s going to be seated only, a metre or metre and a half between tables. No more than six at a table, they can come from any number of households,” Varadkar said.

There’ll be no rule of 15, if you have the space you have the space. There won’t be a requirement to buy a substantial meal, that will be gone. And we don’t anticipate that there’ll be a limit on the amount of time that you can stay. So it’ll be a lot more practical than what existed before but that’s not finalised yet. 

There is no fixed date set for the return of indoor dining but it’s expected to be some time in July. Varadkar said today that he hopes it would be in “early July”. 

“I can neither confirm nor deny anything about July at this stage but it is certainly our hope and intention to allow indoor dining to resume in July, hopefully early July, and also some mass events as well,” he said.  

PastedImage-66773 Varadkar speaking during this morning's Committtee meeting.

Ahead of that however overnight residents in hotels and B&Bs will be allowed to eat in the facilities when they reopen for guests on 2 June. 

Some restaurants have complained that this has led to a disparity between different sectors of hospitality but Varadkar said that hotels have always remained open for essential purposes and that people have been allowed to eat in them. 

When it comes to hotels, we never closed their dining rooms. During Level 5 when we were all locked down at home, hotels were still open for essential reasons. 

“We never closed hotel restaurants or dining rooms. So if we were to close the now, we’d be closing them for the first time,” he said. 

Merrion Row

PastedImage-69336 Source: DublinCity.ie

The update on plans for outdoor dining comes as Dublin City Council confirmed that a trial to increase space for dining on Dublin’s Merrion Row has been successful and will continue. 

The council has said the new layout will continue “initially for the summer” with a review to then take place in the autumn to establish long-term viability. 

The changes mean that two-way traffic is reduced to just one lane in order to increase the width of footpaths and facilitate outdoor dining. Some car-parking spaces on the nearby Ely Place are also to be removed. 

The changes are part a range of plans for additional pedestrian space in the capital

Recovery Plan

During his appearance at the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee, Varadkar also said that the government expects to be in a position to publish the National Economic Recovery Plan in the next two weeks and that it will outline “targeted assistance for sectors which will continue to be most adversely affected by the pandemic”.

“It will outline the next steps for the emergency pandemic interventions, including the PUP and EWSS, reaffirming the government’s commitment to avoid a cliff-edge,” he said, adding that at the same time “they cannot continue indefinitely”.

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Asked about the decision by Aer Lingus to close its Shannon crew base to reduce costs, Varadkar described the move by the airline as “extremely unwelcome”.

“The closure of the cabin crew base in Shannon wasn’t expected,” he said.

“It is down to the pandemic and to the fact that people just aren’t travelling. And it is also down to the restrictions the government imposed.”

- With reporting by PA

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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