Publicans warn they face ‘full-blown crisis’

Vintner groups say the 25,000 people working in pubs now under ‘intolerable pressure’

“This is Groundhog Day for the trade as twice now the reopening of pubs has been postponed.” Photograph: Getty Images

“This is Groundhog Day for the trade as twice now the reopening of pubs has been postponed.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Government’s sympathy for 3,500 “abandoned” pubs that must now remain closed due to a rise in Covid-19 infections in the State will do nothing to save jobs, the industry has said.

Reacting to the decision to keep non-food-serving establishments shuttered for at least another three weeks, publicans said they were now facing a “full-blown crisis”.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said publicans were now in “fury and despair”, and called for “immediate” aid.

“This is Groundhog Day for the trade as twice now the reopening of pubs has been postponed,” said VFI chief executive Pádraig Cribben, “The Government has effectively denied pubs the ability to trade. As a result it will have to provide substantial supports to our members, many of whom are deeply agitated at what they feel is the State abandoning a vital part of the hospitality sector.”

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said pubs have been abandoned:

“We’re repeatedly being told that opening the pubs ‘could lead to an increase in the virus’. Well, when will that not be the case?”

Reassurance

The 25,000 people working in pubs now faced “intolerable pressure”, said the bodies, who complained about a lack of guidance from the Government or reassurance about the future.

Speaking at the outset of Tuesday’s press conference, Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged the pressure that had come from the pub trade to reopen.

“I know that this will come as a blow to pub-owners. This virus is taking away their ability to earn a living; it is stopping them from providing a key service in the heart of many communities, especially in rural Ireland.”

However, Mr Martin was rigid in his belief that, guided by public health advice, ongoing closure was essential given Covid-19 numbers were rising and the need to reopen schools this month.

International evidence was “very clear” that reopening pubs and nightclubs prematurely had led directly to an increase in cases.

Local reopenings are ruled out for now, but could be considered later.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said a decision to reopen pubs depended on “complex variables”.

“I think there is a misperception out there that the vast majority of cases to date have been in Dublin. Just about one in four cases over the past two weeks has been in Dublin. We have seen significant numbers of cases in Kildare, Laois, Offaly, Clare, Limerick, Galway, Mayo. We have had cases in Cavan, Meath, cases in Wexford, in Kerry, in Cork.

“Of course NEPHT’s preference would be to be able to adopt a more nuanced approach but the evidence simply wouldn’t support that.”

He said the situation in a county could change “overnight”.

Wedding industry

Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation has asked for the 50-strong limit on indoor gatherings to be increased, claiming that they have robust rules in place. An increase could be the difference between staying open or closing, it said.

“The wedding industry, as one example, is a €1.5 billion industry. It is now at significant risk, together with the almost 40,000 jobs it supports,” said the federation.

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