Restaurants: ‘There is no choice. It’s this or stay closed’

Restaurateurs say they are tired of false dawns and low numbers of outdoor diners – they want to reopen

Restaurant owners say frustration is the dominant emotion, with a lack of clarity on how the vaccination certification will work and the false starts up to now. Photograph: iStock

Restaurant owners say frustration is the dominant emotion, with a lack of clarity on how the vaccination certification will work and the false starts up to now. Photograph: iStock

 

Restaurateurs across the country have said they will operate whatever system is put in place by Government to ensure vaccinated and other “Covid-secure” people can eat indoors from later this month.

In a straw poll of operators who spoke to The Irish Times, nobody said they would not open on the proposed basis of excluding the unvaccinated.

Charles Guilbaud of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud on Dublin’s Upper Merrion Street said chefs were already “creating” in the kitchen and on Tuesday served a small number of diners on an outside terrace.

“We lease from the Merrion Hotel but we are not the hotel restaurant,” said Mr Guilbaud, explaining that under existing Covid rules the business could not claim leeway granted to hoteliers to allow diners eat inside.

“Hopefully we will be able to open fully early next week,” he said. The restaurant was “lucky to be able to put staff on furlough”, also called the Job Retention Scheme, rather than the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, so staff retention was good throughout the pandemic, he said.

“Now the issue is to get open again. The customer wants us to open, we want to be there – so we will get going”.

Addressing the issue of checking customers for vaccination certificates Mr Guilbaud said he hoped the customers will want to see things work out “and will not be offended when we ask. We want to be totally above board”, he said.

David O’Donnell of Casper and Giumbini’s restaurant in Dún Laoghaire said even though the restaurant had outdoor seating overlooking the seafront, numbers have been limited and the vagaries of the Irish weather did affect business from time to time.

Reopening should be “the sooner the better” he said, musing that things could get tough if a customer simply refuses to produce their certificate of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. “I am trying to stay positive about it. We all use masks but they inhibit speaking and hearing others. Masks are the main hindrance”.

At Angelina’s Restaurant in Percy Place, Dublin, Gerry Crosson said “it can be heart breaking” when he walks customers thorough the empty restaurant to outdoor tables and “particularly when you have to turn people away with all those empty seats”.

Frustration is the dominant emotion he says. There is as yet a lack of clarity on how the vaccination certification will work and the false starts have hit everyone in the industry hard. “Last week we had to ring around and cancel bookings, this week as well and probably next week. It is heartbreaking but yes, we will adapt as we always have, like we all did to the smoking ban. It is just frustrating when you don’t have clarity.”

In Galway city Kevin McKittrick of McSwiggins bar and restaurant says he has been open “since we were allowed” with tables out on Woodquay. He says whatever the rules about verification are they will be implemented – “if people know about it, there will have to be a publicity campaign”.

In Cork Graham Jeffrey of Thompsons Restaurant and microbrewery agrees with his colleagues that restaurateurs will want to make whatever rules allow opening up, work. “It has been too long really. Really at this stage we want to get open even if it is only the vaccinated – there is no choice. It was this or stay closed until September at least”.

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