Live music at outdoor gatherings ‘a significant step in the right direction’ – fiddle player

New guidelines say maximum of 200 people permitted at outdoor events in most venues

Musicians and entertainers, who have spent 500 days locked out of work because of Covid-19 restrictions, have welcomed new guidelines which will permit live music at outdoor gatherings for up to 200 people.

Fáilte Ireland drafted new guidelines for hotels, restaurants and pubs which say that a maximum of 200 people are permitted at organised outdoor events in most venues and 500 are allowed in premises with the capacity for 5,000 or more guests.

The guidelines say that multiple tables can be booked for outdoor parties but people must not mix together and must leave the venue by 11.30pm. Live music is permitted at outdoor events but bands must be at a distance of at least two metres away from customers.

Matt McGranaghan, a fiddle player from Donegal, says the guidelines are a "significant step in the right direction".


“We wanted any opportunity at all for people to work and we want to be able to build upon this going forward.”

The loss of work throughout the summer months of June and July has caused “untold damage to the industry” already and “a huge amount of revenue and employment has been lost” but it was “better late than never,” he said.

For Mark O’Reilly, guitarist and vocalist of the Portumna-based band Hot Fuss, it was “a pity it didn’t come a bit earlier.”

“It feels like we’ve lost the summer at this stage. We could have been playing outdoors up until now so it’s really coming a little late in the day. The summer is so important for the industry to survive but now we only have August,” he told The Irish Times.

Going forward, guidelines should focus on “the bottom of the ladder and work its way up, rather than starting with the big concerts”, he said.

“Big concerts and events will employ hundreds of people for a night or a weekend, but smaller gigs will employ thousands daily.”

While the new guidelines were “positive”, there was “no security for the future” and people were already leaving the industry because they were out of work.

Pubs and restaurants

A spokesman for the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) said the return of music to pubs with outdoor areas was "another welcome sign that the country is gradually returning to normal."

“Publicans are happy an integral part of the pub atmosphere is now available although the sector now requires clarity on when live music can resume indoors,” he said. Outdoor-only music in pubs was “not a sustainable option” long term.

Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, said the new guidelines "make clear we're moving towards a full reopening of society and it's now only a matter of time before all restrictions in pubs such as mandatory table service and the ban on people sitting at bar counters are removed."

The Irish Hotels Federation welcomed the "much-needed clarity" of the new guidelines and described the move as "another positive step towards the full reopening of Ireland's wider tourism and hospitality industry".

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said his members’ understanding from the guidelines is that bookings can be taken now for Communions, Confirmations, parties and other events of up to 200 people in outdoor hospitality settings.

However, he expressed deep frustration with aspects of the rules – specifically the ban on intermingling between tables. He said this ban would prevent a bride and groom from visiting their guests’ tables.

“The key problem for us is tables of six and you cannot intermingle and it has to be policed at all times, which is a nightmare for us to operate – considering you could have 200 people on-street drinking and no policing of that,” he said.

Mr Cummins is seeking an urgent meeting with officials, and he called for clarity on who had drafted the rules – whether it was Fáilte Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team, or the Department of Health.

Representatives of the hospitality industry had been shut out of the process, he said. “This is another example of the industry being left outside the door when key decisions are being made again.”