Many of the country’s pubs are still in the dark about whether they can reopen in just two weeks’ time due to the lack of specific guidance provided to the sector.
Michael O’Donovan, owner of the Castle Inn on Cork’s South Main Street and Cork City chair of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), said ‘wet pubs’, those which don’t serve food, have yet to be told what changes they may need to make in order to open in the coming weeks.
Pubs which serve food were able to reopen last Monday, subject to a range of specific conditions. These include capacity and time limits and the requirement to serve a meal worth a minimum of €9.
‘Wet pubs’ are currently scheduled to reopen on July 20. However, the only guidelines which those working in the sector have seen to date are those which apply to businesses serving food, meaning they are largely in the dark about any potential changes they may be required to make in order reopen in two weeks.
This could extend to having to make physical changes to bars to install screens or partitions in some cases, but will also likely include requirements for bookings, physical distancing and capacity limits. If they are “particularly onerous”, it could be the difference between opening and closing, Mr O’Donovan said.
Some 60% of pubs outside Dublin remain closed.
“We were told to expect the guidelines last Friday and that didn’t happen,” Mr O’Donovan said.
“We are hopeful that we will have them in the coming days because it is very difficult to prepare when we’re still waiting.”
Mr O’Donovan said it is “difficult” to put a number on how many pubs will or won’t be able to open without these guidelines.
His remarks come just days after pictures of crowds drinking on the streets of Dublin caused outrage in the sector and prompted Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Justice Minister Helen McEntee to warn that the July 20 date could be pushed back if guidelines are flouted and if Covid-19 cases spike.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) which represents Dublin pubs, said it “utterly condemns” the actions of those drinking in the crowds on the streets, adding it “completely jeopardises” public health.
The LVA also criticised the fact that people are drinking alcohol from off-licences on the streets, saying it presents “a terrible image of our city centre” and that it is “potentially extremely damaging to public health”.
Adrian Cummins of the Restaurants Association of Ireland said he was shocked by the scenes in Dublin over the weekend.
“I couldn’t believe the disregard to public health by customers and people when we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” he said, speaking on Newstalk.
“So we don’t condone it and I think serious action needs to be taken now to ensure this does not happen again and we have said the gardaí need beefed up powers to make sure what we saw on Saturday night don’t happen again.”
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said most pubs are complying with the regulations since they reopened.
Under Operation Navigation, gardaí conducted 6,000 visits to licensed premises over the weekend. This included repeat visits to some pubs, he said, adding that the vast majority were in compliance.