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Pubs serving food can reopen on 29 June but with table service only

All other pubs can reopen on 20 July – three weeks earlier than originally planned.

Image: Shutterstock/Milosbeo

Updated Jun 5th 2020, 7:28 PM

THE CHIEF MEDICAL Officer Tony Holohan has indicated that peanuts and crisps should not be the only food publicans serve to customers in order to reopen in June.

Speaking at tonight’s Covid-19 briefing at the Department of Health, Holohan said:

“A few people getting together for a few pints and a packet of peanuts doesn’t constitute a restaurant.”

His comments come after today’s announcement that pubs that serve food on the premises will be able to reopen on 29 June.

Pubs will not need a restaurant licence in order to open, it has also been confirmed.

All other pubs can reopen on 20 July – three weeks earlier than originally planned.

During his press conference on the easing of the lockdown restrictions in Phase 2, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on the 29 June “pubs and bars can operate as if they were restaurants, but they won’t need to have a restaurant license “.

Next week, the government will publish detailed guidance for hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes as to how they should operate.

It was announced today that hotels will also be permitted to open earlier than expected, at the end of this month.

Restaurants and cafes will reopen as planned on 29 June.

For pubs to open on this date, they must operate a table service and adhere to social distancing rules.

The Taoiseach said that people must be sitting, adding it would not be the case of “people sitting at a bar… hanging around and standing as you might like to do”.

“It’ll effectively be that bars can operate as though they are restaurants,” he said.

While questions are raised about what type of food publicans must serve to be allowed open, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland told TheJournal.ie that while it does not deal with licences, it does inspect all food businesses.

“Regarding food safety, all food businesses who are re-opening must continue to operate with their food safety management systems in place, but now they must also operate with new Covid-19 prevention measures as per government advice and ensure that these new measures do not compromise their food safety management systems,” said a spokesperson.

The issue of what kind of food publicans will serve under the new rules was also raised in the Dáil yesterday.

Health Minister Simon Harris was asked by Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly if Ireland would revert back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when someone could order a “bag of chips or a plate of manky curry for the venue to be able to continue to serve alcohol”.

The comment resulted in some quips from TDs about the minister’s age, with some saying he would not remember the 80s.

“I do not think we ever did that in Greystones at any stage. We will have to ask deputy [Stephen] Donnelly as he is a little bit older than me… I will come back to the deputy on the curry and mushy peas,” replied Harris.

Publican representative groups have welcomed the announcement today that pubs who serve food can reopen at the same time as the rest of the hospitality sector.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said this will come as a “major relief” to the pub sector across the country. 

Both organisations also welcomed the commitment made by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan that the National Public Health Emergency Team will develop guidance for the hospitality sector in the coming days and that a review of the two metre social distancing requirement is being undertaken.

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“This is a welcome shot in the arm for publicans who will have been closed for more than four months by the time they reopen on 20 July. Pubs were the first sector to close on 15 March, a decision our members supported for the good of public health,” said Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, said: 

He said the earlier opening in July for all pubs will allow businesses to tap into some of the summer season, though Cribben said there are still concerns about the impact of social distancing rules of 2 metres.

Donall O’Keeffe, LVA Chief Executive, said his group had been consistent in advocating for pubs to receive the same treatment as other hospitality businesses that serve food and drink.

He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) social distancing guidance of one metre would make a “substantial difference” to business viability, adding that he hoped it would be reduced in the weeks ahead.

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