Restaurant industry accuses Government of ignoring science on indoor dining

Government’s wider plan for reopening is due to be announced on Friday

The Government has ignored the science on indoor dining, according to the umbrella group representing the restaurant industry.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) has also repeated a threat to legally challenge the decision not to allow all standalone restaurants and gastropubs to re-open from next week while giving hotels the green light to resume indoor dining.

Hotels are due to reopen on June 2nd, and outdoor hospitality is set to resume on June 7th.

Ahead of that, Fáilte Ireland has published guidelines for the staggered reopening pf the hospitality sector which have been approved by the Department of Taoiseach and will be part of the Government's wider plan for reopening due to be announced on Friday.


The RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said that while he welcomed the "long overdue guidelines" on the reopening of the hospitality sector over the summer months, he said his members want "all indoor dining open on June 2nd".

Mr Cummins said there “is no difference between a hotel dining room and a restaurant or a gastropub”.

He noted that over the course of the pandemic the Government had repeatedly said it would be relying on scientific data when making decisions on how to deal with the crisis, but said that the decision to allow hotel dining rooms to reopen weeks before restaurants had put the State on “shaky ground”.

“The guidelines from Fáilte Ireland make it clear there is no difference in the structure of a hotel dining room and restaurant business and the only difference is someone sleeps in a hotel overnight.

“We want to get 180,000 workers back to work as soon as possible and if we are not allowed to reopen in early June then we need the Government to explain in detail why certain business are being treated differently to others.”

Mr Cummins said the RAI was ready to support any of its members who take legal action as soon as the provisions which allow hotel dining rooms to re-open but not restaurants are signed into law.

“We are ready to take legal action and we will be doing so as a matter of public interest,” Mr Cummins said.

He said the re-opening of outdoor dining spaces was a step in the right direction but that outdoor dining was always supposed to serve as an additional space to compensate for the loss of indoor dining spaces as a result of social distancing rules.

“Outdoor dining was never meant to replace indoor dining and in any event only around 20 per cent our members will be able to offer it and even less will be able to make that model sustainable,” Mr Cummins said.

Brian Foley of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) welcomed the publication of the guidelines and said at the very least they would allow publicans to begin preparing for a full reopening at the start of July.

"The guidelines were a long time coming but it is good to get the clarity," he said, adding that VFI members were hopeful the Government would take a similar approach to Northern Ireland and allow pubs to re-open their indoor spaces three weeks after outdoor hospitality resumed.

“We will see a huge amount of vaccines in June and what we want to do is ensure that after 15 months of being closed this is the last ever lockdown as having to close again would be unimaginable. If it is a matter of waiting three weeks to allow more people to be vaccinated then that is what we will do.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast