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Pubs challenge government to open indoor hospitality by 1 July

The government is expected to lay out plans for the next stage of easing restrictions this week.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

STAKEHOLDERS ARE PUSHING the government to commit to reopening indoor hospitality by the start of July.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) want to see the return of indoor dining in pubs and restaurants by 1 July as vaccine rollout progresses.

Publicans say that outdoor dining, which can resume in June, will not allow the industry to recover alone. 

The government is expected to make an announcement this week laying out plans for travel, aviation, entertainment, sport and mandatory hotel quarantine as we look into June and July.

Under the current “next steps” plan, the government set out that some higher-risk activities would be considered at the end of June for later in the year, such as indoor hospitality, including restaurants, bars, nightclubs and casinos.

Other higher-risk activities to be considered include indoor team or group sports, mass gatherings and events, and international travel.

Hotels and B&Bs are allowed to reopen on 2 June and can offer indoor restaurant and bar service, but only to overnight guests and residents.

On 7 June, restaurants and bars can resume outdoor dining for groups with a maximum of six people.

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said that “every day counts for our members and they need to hear from government this week that indoor trading can resume no later than Thursday 1 July”.

“After an horrendous 15 months, it’s great to see the country reopen and publicans along with their staff are certainly looking forward to being part of that process. The successful vaccination programme sends a strong signal that life is returning to something approaching normal,” Cribben said.

“When our pubs do reopen they must follow strict social distancing guidelines and we are asking Government to get those guidelines published immediately so our members can begin preparations,” he said.

“Our members are looking forward to reopening for outdoor trading on 7 June but that is only the first step. The Government must bring finality to what has been a catastrophic period for the trade by announcing pubs can fully reopen no later than 1 July.”

Similarly, Chief Executive of the LVA Donall O’Keeffe said the “success of the vaccine rollout is completely changing the picture when it comes to the pandemic”.

“The tremendous effort of our health service and health care workers in delivering the vaccine is making a major difference on a daily basis. Hospital admissions are reducing and the number of people in ICU has also fallen considerably,” O’Keeffe said.

“Thankfully this success also makes it safer for other activity to resume, including indoor hospitality service,” he said.

While we welcome the fact that outdoor hospitality will return in another couple of weeks, unfortunately not all pubs and restaurants will be in a position to provide service of that nature. Outdoor is a very short term solution to facilitate some resumption of activity but it certainly won’t allow for the recovery of the hospitality industry and full resumption of employment in the sector. That is why everyone in our industry is keenly awaiting confirmation for when we can open our doors for indoor hospitality.

In Northern Ireland, outdoor dining was permitted to reopen earlier this month, and indoor hospitality can reopen tomorrow

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The VFI and LVA want to see pubs here allowed to follow suit.

“This week pubs in the North will reopen indoors, three weeks after outdoor trading started there. We have said all along that pubs in the Republic should follow the same timeline, which would see our members reopen indoors by 1 July,” Cribben said.

“We can’t have a two-tier pub sector on the island for longer than a couple of weeks as already people are crossing the border to socialise. As we remain on course to have the vast majority of the population receive their first vaccination by the end of June, it follows that a full reopening of pubs should then be permitted,” he said.

O’Keeffe said that “given that indoor service will be allowed in hotels and guesthouses from 2nd June and in all hospitality settings in Northern Ireland from Monday, we believe it would be reasonable that indoor service should resume no later than 1 July”.

HSE CEO Paul Reid has said that around 45% of adults in Ireland have received a first dose of a vaccine against Covid-19.

Over 15% are fully vaccinated.

“Our focus on protecting the public through vaccination remains unrelenting. Without the impacted data from GPs, we’ve likely well over 2.3m vaccines administered,” Reid said yesterday.

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