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Pubs and restaurants face Christmas uncertainty due to restrictions

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

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS are facing uncertainty about not being able to trade as normal in the run up to Christmas.

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

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said where the country ends up “depends on all of us working and adhering to the regulations and the guidelines”.

He said the “reward for that is to get shops open on the 1 December, get people back out again, and get back to Level 3 would be my objective”.
The Taoiseach also said that, as of right now, he wasn’t looking beyond the achievement of Level 3 in the immediate term.

“Level 3 is a controlling level if properly enforced and adhered to. I’m not holding our prospects beyond that right now, it all very much depends on the progress we make over the next six weeks against this virus,” he said.

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 last night, 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.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said today that even if the country moves back to Level 3 in December, it will still create “many challenges for those in the hospitality sector”, he said, adding that is why the government lowered VAT to 9%.

He said this is also one of the reasons why the government made the decision to revise the pandemic supports.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme is being enhanced, with a maximum rate now payable at €350, bringing it in line with revisions that are being made to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

The PUP has now been restored to €350 for those earning around €400 per week.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín today hit out over the fact that pubs will not be reopening fully this side of Christmas.

He said the opening and closing of pubs “will not only kill businesses, but it will also ensure that they are well buried beneath a mass of debt”.

“It must also be remembered that the rural pub plays a pivotal role in the community. There will be thousands of people living alone in rural communities who will simply not see another person from dawn till dusk. This will have a severe impact on their lives and their ability to cope with a lockdown in the darkness of winter,” he said. 

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Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath warned that keeping PUP, wage subsidy and business support schemes at the top rate for a year would cost €16 billion and would be unsustainable.

McGrath said the total expenditure on the three government support schemes will be €2 billion over the next six weeks.

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