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'It's absolutely ridiculous to exclude people': Young hospitality workers on indoor dining restrictions

As NPHET suggests only opening indoor dining for those that are vaccinated, we spoke to the servers.
Jun 30th 2021, 5:00 PM 13,222 39

HOSPITALITY WORKERS HAVE spoken out about how they feel about the recent controversies around indoor dining and vaccination certs.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach announced that indoor dining would not be resuming on 5 July, but would be postponed until at least the 19th. 

The decision came after NPHET recommended that in order to curb the spread of the Delta variant, indoor dining could reopen, but just for those who are vaccinated. This suggestion became a controversial focal point in the ongoing discussion about the country reopening.

Both of these announcements have gained backlash, with the last-minute calls to not resume indoor dining leaving publicans in vulnerable positions

While publicans and government officials have given their opinions on the latest announcements, what about those working on the frontline of the hospitality industry?

According to a September 2020 report conducted by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland and Anthony Foley of Dublin City University Business School, one-third of those working in the hospitality sector are between the ages of 15 and 24. Many of these would be unvaccinated. 

We spoke to some hospitality workers who expressed their concerns about where these new government decisions leave them. All five that we spoke to from across the country – including Dublin, Clare and Leitrim- say they are in agreement with indoor dining progressing. However, they have urged the government to introduce more safety measures to protect staff.

Ellen: ‘I think vaccine rollout and reopenings should go hand in hand’

Ellen, usually a full-time student nurse, works in a restaurant in a hotel in Clare.

“I feel like in hotels you have just as much physical contact. Because at the end of the day, you’re dealing with plates and cutlery, and cups and glasses and everything that’s all been touched by people. And there’s a much bigger flow of people coming in every day, rather than a hospital.

“Obviously, there could be a patient there [in a hospital] for a couple of days. Whereas in a hotel, it’s a constant different flow [of people] every day. So in that respect, you’re a bit uncomfortable, like when you’re clearing off plates and clearing tables and stuff like that.

“Some people are very good, they had their masks on all the time. But then other people, you’d swear the pandemic wasn’t here. They call you down and they come right up to you. And they want to ask you something, like personal space wasn’t really a thing.

“I personally think that hotel workers and maybe bar workers, etc, should be like given vaccines and should be getting some element of priority. Because at the end of the day, they’re just as much in contact with people as other like faculties are, like healthcare workers and things like that.”

“From that perspective for businesses, I do think indoor dining should be open because they need to make a living. But I also do think that they [vaccine rollout and ropenings] should go hand in hand.

“I know the rollout of vaccines isn’t that great anyways, but I do think maybe some workers should be given priority. Just if it is a case where they are young, not vaccinated, dealing with the public, things like that.”

 ‘It’s a bit bizarre that I’m not vaccinated but I’m allowed to serve people.’

“I would say I feel somewhat safe, not entirely. I’m not vaccinated, so I suppose not protected and I suppose with the Delta variant out there as well, there’s more of a risk.

“The nature of hospitality, the work is very intense so you do try and keep things as clean as you can, but there’s big understaffing issues the moment. A lot of rush, probably, not a lot of breaks happening, stuff like that. People are quite on top of themselves, due to a culmination of factors, which could lead to negligence. So there’s that as an additional factor I suppose.

“But I do think it would just make sense for hospitality workers maybe to be vaccinated as soon as possible because it’s a bit bizarre that I’m not vaccinated. But I’m allowed to serve people. 

“But I do think hospitality workers should be vaccinated. It’s just a bit bizarre that, especially with the government’s new proposals, the vaccinated people can sit inside, that I will be able to serve someone their food, their drinks, their pints, whatever. Yet I can’t sit down beside them and enjoy the same? Which I think is utterly chaotic, especially considering majority of people that are [in hospitality] – at least waiting staff – are probably aged around 18 to 25 or 26.”

‘It’s absolutely ridiculous to exclude people’ 

“I’d be quite happy with the prospect of indoor dining. From a personal perspective, because it probably means I would get more work.

“But the vaccinated people only being allowed inside, logistically at a very surface level, it makes sense but I think it is grossly unfair. I don’t think that it’s completely fair to exclude people like me, who hasn’t had it [the virus] or any symptoms ever.”

This hospitality worker explained how some customers don’t follow Covid regulations.

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“Customers, some of them are very bad actually for wearing face masks on the premises, which is just not great.

“The other week this man got annoyed at us for supposedly skipping him in terms of taking orders. And he grabbed a girl I work with on the arm in rage. And we were just shocked, we were like oh my God, how could you ever think that was okay?” 

INDOOR DINING PUSHED BACK 1L2A9969 Diners at pubs and cafes in South Dublin City's Cultural Quarter enjoyed the sun with a promise of good weather to come. But owners of the premises were less than happy with the decision to put back indoor dining for a number of weeks. Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Róisín: ‘If unvaccinated people can’t eat indoors they shouldn’t have to work in that environment’

“I suppose I’m lucky that I’m vaccinated but a lot of my friends aren’t, so I’m not going to be going out for food without my friends. I understand the point of it but it’s very unfair on young people and if it was the other way round and older people were the ones who couldn’t dine indoors, there would be uproar.

“If unvaccinated people can’t eat indoors they shouldn’t have to work in that environment, as this is even more dangerous.

“But it’s weird being back. Everything’s different, there’s a lot of new rules and Covid precautions, like extra cleaning. And I find myself questioning simple things a lot like if someone asks me to fill their child’s bottle with water, can I do that because that means touching it. So it can be confusing.”

Shauna: ‘I feel like it’s unfair. It’s almost as discriminatory in a way’

“As someone who’s not vaccinated, I couldn’t go into a restaurant myself and eat there. But I can serve in one.

“Younger people, for the last year and a half, we’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do. And, and you know, we’ve been putting our lives on hold. Now, we’re kind of pushed to the side. So honestly now at this stage, I’m just a bit fed up.

“In a way, I see where they’re coming from [only letting vaccinated people dine indoors]. You want to keep people safe, but then as well, the majority of people working in bars and restaurants; they’re probably under 30. They’re not vaccinated, we’re not a vaccinated cohort. So in a way, that doesn’t really make sense. Because we can’t be inside, but they want us to serve inside. So just to be honest, I’m not fond of it. 

“I do feel safe now working with masks on and everything. I think it makes no sense to stop people who aren’t vaccinated from coming into restaurants when they can go into hotels to eat in those restaurants there, instead of just the regular diners. It doesn’t make sense?”

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Niamh Quinlan

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