Some pubs are reopening. Here’s everything you need to know about how it will work

Pubs that serve food can open their doors on June 29th if they follow Fáilte Ireland’s rules

Pubs reopening: barman Mark Ennis disinfects tables at O’Gorman’s in Portlaoise. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Pubs reopening: barman Mark Ennis disinfects tables at O’Gorman’s in Portlaoise. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


What has happened?
Fáilte Ireland has finally published its guidelines for reopening pubs as the coronavirus lockdown eases. The 22-page document arrived on Wednesday evening. Pubs that serve food can open on Monday, June 29th. Pubs that don’t serve food must wait until July 20th.

What are the basics?
Pubs that serve food can reopen with table service only: no queueing at the bar or socialising away from your table. You must book, you must eat as well as drink, and you can keep your table for only 1¾ hours. A new group will be allowed to use the table after a 15-minute pause, for cleaning.

Can I walk in without a booking?
“I’d assume so,” says Donall O’Keeffe, head of the Licensed Vintners Federation. “If there is room. Although the recommendation is to make a booking.”

What about contact tracing?
One person in each prebooked group must give their name and contact details to a staff member, then make a personal note of each person in their group. The pub will keep the details for a month.

There has been much talk of customers being obliged to order a “substantial meal” that costs at least €9. What constitutes a substantial meal?
“A main course. Which could also be a salad,” says O’Keeffe.

Does everyone at the table have to order this meal?
“Everyone drinking alcohol. But not those people having a soft drink or a coffee,” says O’Keeffe.

If you do not want a substantial meal, can you order two starters instead, or menu items to the value of €9?
“That is not clear,” says O’Keeffe.

Can you share a table with people who don’t live in the same house as you?
You may share a table with family, close friends, or both.

Must you social distance from customers at other tables?
Yes, but exactly how far depends on how much work the pub has done. If it complies with a long list of requirements it can allow people from outside the same group to come with one metre of each other. The requirements include signage, floor markings and regular announcements to remind customers to wash their hands and social distance. Pubs that don’t meet these requirements will have to ensure customers remain two metres from people who are not in their groups.

Will staff and customers have to wear masks?
The guidelines point out that the Government has recommended wearing face coverings “where it is difficult to practise physical distancing”. So it sounds like a good idea if you’re going to the bathroom, but it sounds optional at your table – and of course you’d have to remove a mask, at least partially, to eat and drink.

Will hand sanitiser be available?
Yes. At entrances and exits and in bathrooms.

How do you order your drinks and food?
From your table. Any menus must be on paper, so they can be thrown away after a single use; be laminated, or on another material that can be disinfected afterwards; or be written on blackboards. Staff can also memorise the menu and tell you what’s on it.

Will there still be self-service carveries and buffets?
Yes, as long as “physical distancing and other public health advice can be followed”. But all food served in a buffet must be “individually wrapped or be a single-serve item”. Basically, it’s the end, for now, of being served from a communal dish of food.

Can I have an umbrella in my cocktail?
Embellishment or decoration of glasses should be minimised, according to the guidelines.

Can I pay with cash?
Yes, as some sections of society could otherwise be excluded. But contactless payment is preferred.

Will a lot more plastic be in use?
It appears so. Straws must be individually wrapped. Condiments must come in separate packets. So no jars of mustard, pepper grinders or salt shakers.

How often will be the pub be cleaned?
The customer areas – including any doors, handrails and outdoor benches, as well as the outsides of bins – must be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day. Each group’s table and seats must be cleaned after they leave. The cleaning requirements for the whole pub take up several pages of the guidelines.

Will it be worth all these additional measures to return to your favourite pub?
“We think so,” says O’Keeffe. “We are looking forward to welcoming customers back, and we think they are looking forward to being back.”

Will the same regulations apply for restaurants?
Guidelines detailing how restaurants can operate when they reopen on June 29th are due to be published by Fáilte Ireland on Friday morning. Draft guidelines were published earlier this month based on businesses observing the two-metre rule but the new guidelines are due to allow for 1m social distancing under certain circumstances.