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Restaurant sector faces 'total collapse' in January if not allowed to open in December

The sector has warned it will lose out on 30% of its annual income.

Image: Shutterstock

RESTAURATEURS ARE CALLING on the government to allow them to open in December, warning that the loss of the pre-Christmas trade could put many out of business in the new year.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said 30% of the sector’s annual income comes in December.

“It is actually in a very precarious position where we could see a complete and total collapse of our industry in January if we’re not allowed to open for December,” he said.

Cummins said banks are “moving in on businesses” to make sure they pay their loans and landlords are looking for rent because they have to pay their mortgages.

“Over the next five days, the politicians need to, in our opinion, give us a clear definitive answer and allow us to open in a safe controlled manner so that we can get the thousands of workers that want to get back to work in December, so they can have a Christmas to look forward to”

He said restaurateurs want to be able to open their indoor spaces because “outdoor dining doesn’t work for our industry at all”.

Cummins said if the government does not allow hospitality to open, socialising in December will still happen but in less controlled environments such as households.

“That’s a recipe for disaster in our opinion,” he said.

Also speaking on the show this morning, Dr Tomás Ryan, associate professor at the school of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College Dublin, warned that allowing restaurants to re-open at a time when there is a high level of the virus in the community could result in a surge in cases in January.

“There is no point in opening for a week or two in the Christmas season in a distanced matter if we are at hundreds of cases a day because the current situation is that by the first of December, we will be somewhere between 200 and 250 cases a day,” he said.

“We won’t be at the target of 100 cases a day until the middle or the end of the third week of December, and even 100 cases a day is quite a lot.

“So if we open up on the 1st of December with hundreds of cases a day, and we allow restaurants to open at that point in time, we could be at up to 1000 cases a day by New Year’s.”

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He said he acknowledged the efforts made by the hospitality sector to make their premises as safe as possible, but said there is evidence of super-spreader events in restaurants. 

“We know internationally that restaurants are a site for super-spreader events – and this is a key point – when you have a large number of the virus in the community.

“So if you want to make restaurants safe, if you want to open them up, you need to get the virus down to very low levels, ideally to single digit levels. And we have done that in Ireland, it is realistic, we’ve done it before.

“If we get the virus down to single digit numbers per day, and we keep them down, then you can have a situation where restaurants can open and then hopefully eventually wet pubs can open and without a third wave and without a third lockdown if that’s managed correctly.”

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