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New pub and restaurant rules 'savaged' by TDs as Tánaiste indicates further changes into the summer

A 105-minute time limit will be in place for indoor dining where there is social distancing of one-metre.

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Updated May 26th 2021, 7:46 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HOPES it can ease the rules around pubs and restaurants as the summer progresses and the vaccine roll out ramps up. 

The new guidelines released by Fáilte Ireland today set out that when outdoor service resumes in June, beer gardens will be limited to six adults when they reopen in two weeks but there are to be additional spaces for children.

For both food and drink, the guidelines say that the premises must be empty of all patrons by 11.30 pm. No live music or performances are permitted. 

In terms of time limits and social distancing, a 105-minute time limit will be in place for indoor dining where there is social distancing of one metre but this time limit can be removed if there are two metres between tables. 

Indoor dining resumes for restaurants in hotels on 2 June. 

While those in the industry have welcomed the clarity today, concerns have been raised about the time limit and the curfew, as well as the ban on live music. 

Government sources have confirmed to The Journal that there is a possibility of easing some of these rules come July or August when it is expected that indoor dining can resume. 

“I don’t think these regulations are the final word for summer 2021,” said one source on the release of the guidelines today.

This was confirmed in the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening, when TD Brendan Griffin raised serious issues with the impact the 105 minute rule would have on rural pubs in his constituency in Kerry. 

He told the Tánaiste that it actually only encourages people to go multiple venues on pub crawls.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated he would do what he can to ensure there was little difference between the rules for indoor and outdoor dining, pointing to the possibility of further changes to the rules in a couple of weeks time. 

Former minister Charlie Flanagan also raised issues between the disparity between restaurants in hotels allowed to serve food indoors from 2 June, but other restaurants having to wait until an unknown date in July. 

“A nut roast in a restaurant is probably the same as a nut roast in a hotel restaurant,” he told his party colleagues.

It wasn’t just Fine Gael TDs, there was a full on attack of the new measures at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party this evening, with Marc MacSharry telling the Taoiseach that the government is “micro-managing people’s lives”.

He said it needs to stop, stating that Micheál Martin needs to listen to people.

Senator Lisa Chambers said it made no sense banning music and forcing people out at 11.30, stating “either vaccines are the route to freedom and we trust people or we don’t”.

Acting Justice Minister Heather Humphreys also said this afternoon that by the end of June, the government aims to have 80% of the population vaccinated with one dose. 

When asked how long the rules announced today will be in place, she said that the guidelines will be kept under “constant review” in line with the progress of the vaccine rollout. 

“As things improve, we will certainly review them all the time,” she said, stating that it depends on the virus and “how it is behaving”, she told reporters today.

“Of course we would all like things to be back to normal as quickly as possible, we all yearn for that, but we have to take the advice of the public health experts,” she said.

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The minister also said gardaí will continue to have the power to make sure that businesses are adhering to the rules. stating that they have the power to enforce the regulations.

Senior government sources confirmed this afternoon the possibility of easing some of these rules come July or August when indoor dining resumes, “if we remain on the right track” they said in terms of vaccines, case numbers and hospitalisation numbers.

Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Chief Executive, Padraig Cribben said while they welcome clarity around the rules today, the indoor restrictions that apply a 105 minute limit for places that cannot provide two metres between table will be an issue for many businesses. 

The Restaurant Association of Ireland’s Adrian Cummin said on Newstalk today that businesses want to get their doors open and get up and trading, but generally speaking, opening a small business with a two metre gap between tables “isn’t viable”.

The hope is that by the time indoor dining comes around in July, that it would be scrapped, said Cribben, adding it is not viable for some pubs.

“We need to see that changed,” he said.

He called for indoor dining to resume no later than 1 July stating that this is a key date as staycations will be getting underway then once children have finished up from school. 

One of the sources said these rules could be changed during the summer if we stay on track, acknowledging that while the rules are workable for the short-term, they are not sustainable for all businesses in the long term.

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