‘I enjoyed the pub ... but we are trying to be careful because of the virus’

Dublin revellers discover regulated bars and muted streets on night out this Christmas

Ben Holmes (far left) and his friends in Temple Bar. Photograph: Jade Wilson

Ben Holmes (far left) and his friends in Temple Bar. Photograph: Jade Wilson

 

Sitting at a socially distanced table behind Plexiglass in Frank Ryan’s bar on Smithfield, Dublin, 23-year-old Orla Keaveney says that nowadays she feels safer drinking inside a bar than outdoors.

“It doesn’t feel particularly risky because we have table service and are socially distanced. Compared to the way pubs were before the virus, there’s a big difference in contact. Before, you’d be squeezing past some lad’s armpit in a hot, foggy venue trying to get to the bar. Now it feels much more like a restaurant,” she says.

Drinking indoors feels “more regulated” by bar staff than when people are “out drinking and congregating on the streets”, she adds.

Frank Ryan’s was manageably busy for a Saturday night two weeks before Christmas. Exiting the bar, pub goers are faced with an empty street, unlike on busier parts of the city’s southside where several bars are based on the same street and people are met with crowds of other drinkers.

Over in Temple Bar, crowds drank outside closed wet pubs and staff who would normally work behind the bar took on the new role of dispersing groups if they became too large.

Busy staff

Two barmen at The Temple Bar pub say “there’s a lot more work involved” in dealing with revellers on the street, but that the street was “nowhere near” as busy as in previous Christmases.

“We’re down by far more than a third of our usual business tonight, but despite that, it’s harder to control the crowds because they’re drinking cans on the street. It’s frustrating,” says one of the barmen.

Ben Holmes (23) from Blackrock shares a similar sentiment to Keaveney and, while he was drinking outside with five friends, this was because he could not secure a booking anywhere. It was their first night out together in more than two months.

“If we could get into a pub we could distance and control things better. It would be more uniform and we’d feel better,” he says.

Shane O’Gorman (left) and David Rooney. Photograph: Jade Wilson
Shane O’Gorman (left) and David Rooney. Photograph: Jade Wilson

Earlier in the week, the Government urged people to restrict their movements and avoid socialising if they want to spend time with vulnerable people over Christmas. Liz Canavan, assistant secretary at the Department of Taoiseach, asked people to limit their contacts to a “very small circle”.

While praising the efforts of Ireland’s younger generation in reducing their contacts and helping to reduce the incidence rate of the virus among their age group, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan asked people to continue “planning from now for Christmas to reduce social contacts and limit activities to those that are essential and most important to us”.

Flat-mates

That’s why Lorrena Oliva (29) from Brazil has only been going out with her flat-mates this Christmas. Oliva says she feels safer outdoors where the risk of transmitting the virus is lower, whereas inside she worries about touch points and speaking to staff who are serving hundreds.

“I enjoyed the pub, people wear their masks and are respecting everyone. But we are trying to be really careful and prefer outside because the virus is still here,” she says.

This weekend was the first time the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital has dipped below 200 in more than two months. Ireland now has the lowest incidence in Europe.

Knowing that, Shane O’Gorman (23) and his friend David Rooney (21) say they felt safe to continue going to bars with friends over Christmas as they would “keep distancing from everyone and stick to our own group”.

“We know we can’t meet or talk to as many people as we would on a normal night out. But it would still be better if we could get into a bar and stay there. Instead we’re out roaming the streets since 7 o’clock,” says Rooney.