Better compensation to assuage a shuttered hospitality sector might be worth it
Cantillon: Perhaps the time has come to agree a unified approach between the sector and officials
Dublin’s ’wet’ bars have been forcibly shut since March, with no sign of them reopening anytime soon. Photograph: Dara MacDonaill
The hospitality industry has fought a running publicity battle for most of the year with hawkish public health officials over the Government’s repeated shutting down of the sector to fight coronavirus.
No sector of the economy has ever before been asked to accept as much financial punishment for the greater good as the hospitality sector has been forced to swallow in 2020.
Dublin’s ’wet’ bars, for example, have been forcibly shut since March, with no sign of them reopening anytime soon. That must be horrific for the owners of those businesses. Who can go virtually a year without revenue?
The hospitality sector has been partially propped up by State compensation to date, but businesses argue it no longer covers all their costs. They want to trade.
But with the recent spike in numbers and the emergence of a potentially more virulent UK strain, we appear to be reaching a critical stage in the fight against the virus over the winter. Perhaps the time has come to end some of the running battles and agree a fresh, unified approach between the sector and officials.
Further prolonged shutdown of hospitality now seems inevitable. Operators, through their sectoral lobbyists, have indicated that they are willing to end their opposition to longer shutdowns if the Government increases the compensation on offer to keep them afloat. It may be a price worth paying.
Most of the the rest of the economy – notably exports, manufacturing, and construction – appears to be weathering the Covid storm reasonably well. An argument can be made that the country can afford to pay bars and restaurants more.
If hospitality outlets are to be forced to close again to keep a lid on infections, it might be better to have them onboard, rather than agitating from the outside, where they feed a divisive economy versus public health narrative.