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Publicans say country faces 'two-tier Christmas' if hospitality remains closed following Level 5

Once the six-week lockdown is over, it is envisaged that the country will remain at Level 3 until the New Year.

Image: Shutterstock/Marco Fine

Updated Nov 11th 2020, 1:20 PM

THE LICENSED VINTNERS Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) has expressed concerns the country will face a “two-tier Christmas” if the hospitality sector remains closed after Level 5 restrictions are lifted. 

Once the current six-week lockdown is over, it is envisaged that the country will remain at Level 3 until the New Year.

However, under Level 3, restaurants, cafes and pubs can only remain open for takeaway and delivery and outdoor dining or service to a maximum of 15 people.

It is understood that during a briefing with business groups on 19 October, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also said the aim is to get the country back to Level 3 by 1 December.

It is understood the Tánaiste is not optimistic that pubs will be able to reopen their doors by Christmas.

If Level 2 was signed off on in December, it would allow them to reopen indoor services, with additional social distancing restrictions in place.

The LVA and VFI have said pub staff from all across the country are contacting their employers to ask if they can return to work in December, saying they can’t afford Christmas for their families on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). 

One third of the pubs in Dublin (approximately 250) have not opened for a single day since 15 March, while almost half of the pubs throughout the country traded for a total of just over two weeks during that period, before being closed again when the government tightened restrictions, the vintners said.

“If pubs and the rest of the hospitality sector are kept closed in December, while the rest of the economy is allowed to trade then there will be a two-tier Christmas in this country,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA.

It’s not ok for the government to impose this burden on tens of thousands of families all across Ireland. It’s not ok for government policy to be creating a ‘haves and have nots’ division all over the country around Christmas.

Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the VFI said: “Limiting hospitality businesses to a 15 person outdoor capacity simply won’t do in December. The government might as well just take the keys away for most of these businesses. It certainly won’t allow 90% of the sector to go back to work.

Publicans and their staff have already proved they can successfully and safely open under government guidelines. This was shown when the food pubs reopened in June and when the traditional pubs outside Dublin reopened towards the end of September.

“We hope the government will realise the importance of fostering Christmas goodwill for all sectors, this year of all years.”

Retail

Retail Ireland, meanwhile, has today called on the government to unwind the restrictions on retail trading in advance of December in response to reduced Covid case numbers and the need to manage Christmas trading safely over the coming weeks. 

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“The four-week review of current Covid restrictions should move to unwind retail restrictions to better facilitate a safe and socially distanced Christmas shopping experience,” Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon said. 

“A short three-week shopping window in December will create significant additional challenges for retailers working to manage numbers in stores and reduce the need for queues,” Dillon said. 

“The run up to Christmas is make or break for many retailers. Many are relying on the period to make up for the major financial hit taken earlier in the year. While significant government supports are welcome, more is needed to help retailers manage commercial rent liabilities that continue to accrue during lockdown,” he said. 

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