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'Off the premises by 11': Concern closing pubs and restaurants early will result in house parties and cancelled staycations

It is understood that 11pm closure is not a hard rule for businesses.

PEOPLE WILL BE driven to house parties and holidaymakers may now cancel staycations due to restaurants and pubs being forced to close at 11pm, according to Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

Restaurants and pubs serving food will have to close at 11 o’clock at night from next Monday, the Taoiseach confirmed yesterday evening.

The government has decided against allowing pubs that don’t serve food to reopen on 10 August, delaying their reopening for a second time.

Hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos will also remain closed; this will be reviewed again on 31 August. 

When asked about the closing time restriction, the Taoiseach said: “I wouldn’t use the word curfew.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar added that the “customers should be off the premises by 11″.

He said restaurants can stay open beyond 11pm for takeaways, deliveries and for staff to clean up.

“What we want to stop is what was kind of happening, this was kind of happening, restaurants were almost operating as pubs,” said Varadkar. 

It is understood that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advice called for restaurants and pubs serving food to be closed by 10.30pm, but government pushed for 11pm.

Cummins described the decision as “bizarre and out of the blue”, stating that under the current law, those with a special restaurant licence can open until 12.30pm Monday to Thursday, and 1.30pm on Friday and Saturday.

Restaurateurs can stay open until midnight on Sunday. 

The memo brought to Cabinet stated that the restaurants and pubs should be “reminded of the detail and spirit of the guidance in place”.

It is believed that the government announcement last night is advice and guidance and “not a hard rule”. 

Whether the measures announced yesterday evening falls under the emergency public health legislation is yet to be determined.

It is understood Cabinet was told by NPHET that there were concerns that restaurants were opening late, almost operating as pubs, and with these new restrictions it will mean restaurants or pubs serving food will allow for two sittings from 7pm to 9pm and 9pm to 11pm.

NPHET raised concerns about people congregating for hours drinking and touching.

House parties 

Cummins said government were raising concerns about people congregating in house parties, but commented that shutting down restaurants and pubs will only encourage people to attend house parties.

“Restaurants are now one of the safest social outlets in the country and by closing restaurants at 11pm you will drive people to impromptu house parties. The loss of an hour will be the difference to people making wrong decisions and will affect the economics of viable businesses,” he said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Cummins said if people have to be out the door by 11pm, they will go back to someone’s house. If they are allowed stay on for another hour or hour and a half until midnight, they are more likely to head home, he said.

There was no consultation with the industry about the new rule, he added.

It will have a huge impact, he said, stating that it could result in people cancelling their staycations in Ireland.

He raised concerns about what this could also mean for hotels, if customers have to finish up their meals by 11 o’clock.

While the Taoiseach said it is not a curfew, Cummins said “it looks like a curfew to me”. 

“It doesn’t make any sense. The government has not thought this through,” he said, adding that the rationale for such measures should be explained in detail to businesses.

While restaurants are seeking an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach on the matter, Martin also delivered bad news to pubs that do not serve food, stating that they will not reopen for at least another three weeks. 

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He told reporters yesterday that he cannot guarantee that pubs will re-open this year.

“I know that this will come as a blow to pub owners and I want them to know I have enormous sympathy for their plight.

“This virus is taking away their ability to earn a living, to provide a key service in the heart of many communities,” he said. 

However, publicans have said it is the government that is taking away their right to earn a livelihood, with publicans stating that the decision to delay pubs reopening will be met with “fury and despair”.

He said the government will examine further additional supports for sectors, including pubs, particularly affected by the virus. 

A number of other measures were also announced by government yesterday.

Face coverings will now be mandatory in shops and shopping centres from next Monday, 10 August.

The number of people allowed to gather outdoors at organised events is to stay at 200, and indoor gatherings will remain limited to 50 (as part of Phase Four, those limits were to increase to 500 and 100 respectively).

Cabinet also reviewed Ireland’s travel ‘green list’, or the list of countries Irish people can travel to without restricting their movements on their return.

The Taoiseach confirmed this evening that Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Monaco, and San Marino have been removed from Ireland’s green list.

Anyone travelling to Ireland from those countries will now have to limit their movements for 14 days upon their arrival.

The list of overseas destinations on the green list with the “normal precautions” travel advice includes: Hungary, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Estonia, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia and Greenland.

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