Irish bars and restaurants invest in medical-grade air purifiers for indoor dining

Fáilte Ireland operating guidelines criticised for not focusing more on technology

A Novaerus air purifier in place in a hospitality venue

A Novaerus air purifier in place in a hospitality venue

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Hundreds of publicans and restaurateurs are investing in medical-grade air purification technology to make their premises safer for indoor trade ahead of the full resumption of the hospitality sector on July 5th.

Wellair, a clean air technology company backed by Oyster Capital’s Bill McCabe and music impresario Denis Desmond, has sold up to 1,000 air purification units under its Novaerus brand in recent months, including to hospitality outlets and even a church that plans to install it in a confessional box.

Publican Deirdre Devitt, a former chair of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) whose family owns the Two Sisters pub near Terenure in Dublin, has taken over distribution of the units in the commercial sector. She said she has been “inundated” with requests from hospitality operators since the Government started planning for the reopening of the sector in recent weeks.

However, Ms Devitt, chief executive of the distribution unit at the McGreals pharmacy chain, which is supplying the technology to customers, also criticised the updated operating guidelines for the hospitality sector from Fáilte Ireland. While the focus last year was on sanitising surfaces, the updated guidelines include new advice on ventilation as scientists at the World Health Organisation and other organisations have zeroed in on airborne transmission of the virus.

The guidelines advised indoor hospitality operators to consider using so-called HVAC mechanical ventilation systems, which are often built in at construction stage. The guidelines made no mention of air purification technology, which can be more easily utilised in mobile units.

Wellair claims its “nanostrike” air-cleaning plasma technology, which is also used in hospitals and ambulances, has been proven to kill airborne viruses including the one that causes Covid-19, and does not recirculate old air.

“Considering the guidelines were released just a few weeks before opening, they needed to say more about good ventilation. People will take a pragmatic view and we believe technology such as ours can play a role,” Ms Devitt said.

Publicans

Among the publicans to have installed the technology is Noel Anderson, proprietor of the Lemon & Duke pub in Dublin and the Bridge 1859 in Ballsbridge, whose other backers include former Ireland rugby captain Jamie Heaslip. Mr Anderson, who is also current LVA chair, said he believed the guidelines are “behind the curve” on air purification technology.

“We see it as an additional level of protection so that we can be seen by our staff and customers as taking their safety to the max,” he said. “We’ll have the doors and windows open. But we will use this technology too. We plan to tell people about it and use it as a selling tool, especially on social media.”

Wellair is an Irish-US entity with links to Dublin City University. Total staff numbers have climbed from 45 to 85 during the pandemic as demand soared for its products, which are designed in Ireland and built by Aubren in Portlaoise, which is planning a new production facility.

Mr McCabe and Mr Desmond were early backers of the company, which had already raised over $35 million prior to an $8 million fundraising early in the pandemic. Recent filings suggest it raised an additional $3 million in preference shares in recent months.

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