Galway restaurateur cancels 2,000 bookings with estimated €80,000 loss

JP McMahon ‘shocked , disappointed and depressed’ at decision to shelve reopening

JP McMahon, owner of Michelin-starred Aniar, Cava Bodega and Tartare cafe and wine bar: ‘That is money we are not going to see again.’ Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

JP McMahon, owner of Michelin-starred Aniar, Cava Bodega and Tartare cafe and wine bar: ‘That is money we are not going to see again.’ Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Galway-based chef and restaurant owner JP McMahon has cancelled 2,000 bookings at the busiest of his three restaurants in the city as a result of the Government’s decision to delay the reopening of indoor dining until at least July 19th.

In an interview with Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times, Mr McMahon said the cancellations at his Cava Bodega venue in Galway, which is currently operating a takeaway service, had resulted in about €80,000 in lost income.

“That is money we are not going to see again,” he said, estimating that the hit to the 2,500-strong restaurant trade could be about €160 million. “People now want the outside tables and we just can’t accommodate them. It’s an absolute mess. The Government have not been strong enough in terms of leadership.”

Mr McMahon said he was “shocked, disappointed and depressed” by the Government’s decision. This was based on public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), which has recommended reopening indoor dining for vaccinated people via a vaccine pass, a proposal accepted by the Government.

Mr McMahon, a columnist with The Irish Times, does not expect the ban on indoor dining to be lifted until August at the earliest. “I suspect that it will be after the August bank holiday that we will be allowed reopen. They will tell us on the 19th [of July] what new things we have to do and I don’t think they’ll be able to do the vaccine [pass] thing. We don’t even have a vaccine cert.”

Preparing

His restaurants – Michelin-starred venue Aniar, Cava Bodega and Tartare cafe and wine bar – had been preparing for 10 weeks to reopen on July 5th.

“There was a lot of work to do. You can’t just reopen with one week’s notice.”

Mr McMahon said the summer season is now effectively gone for his group. He noted how one week in July is the equivalent of four weeks’ business in the quieter winter months. “Half the profit of Cava would come from July and August,” he said.

Mr McMahon said he would have welcomed a vaccine pass being introduced in March or April but believes it is now too late for such a measure. “Now it’s just a mess, I don’t know what’s going on. Who’s going to check on this? Are the guards going to go in and say, ‘can I have all your vaccine passes?’ like the Gestapo? We don’t have a police force like that.

“We should just be open, with proper ventilation and we should just get on with it.”