Restaurants with no outdoor dining space ‘discriminated against’

Some restaurateurs ‘despondent and annoyed’ over hospitality reopening plans

Gina Murphy, owner of Hugo’s restaurant on Merrion Row. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Gina Murphy, owner of Hugo’s restaurant on Merrion Row. Photograph: Damien Eagers

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Restaurateurs with little to no space for outdoor dining have responded to the plan for reopening the hospitality sector with anger and upset.

Hotels can reopen from June 2nd, with indoor restaurant and bar services limited to guests and residents only.

Other restaurants and bars can reopen from June 7th, limited to outdoor seating only, and to groups of no more than six people.

Sinead Lambert is the owner of Sol Rio restaurant in Westport, Co Mayo, which is based on the first and second floor and has no space for outdoor dining. She said the Government announcement this week had left her feeling “despondent and annoyed”.

It was unfair to allow indoor dining in hotels, but limit all other restaurants to outdoor seating only, she said.

“I’ve no problem with them opening outdoor dining first, but I can’t understand how they’re opening hotels and guesthouses. What’s the difference between a restaurant in a hotel and a normal restaurant, none,” she said.

“I feel totally discriminated against by the Government, I’m so angry I really am,” she said.

Mayo County Council is looking at giving her restaurant permission to turn car parking spots by the front door of the business into an outdoor dining space. This would allow her to seat a maximum of 12 people which she said realistically would be “a non-runner” business-wise if the rest of the restaurant remained closed.

Restaurateurs also expressed scepticism about relying on outdoor dining given the Irish weather, even during the summer months. “We live in Ireland, we don’t live in Spain or Portugal,” Ms Lambert said.

Due to the limited outdoor space across the restaurant sector people trying to book tables were likely to be often “disappointed” given expected demand, she said.

If indoor dining was not permitted from July onwards, the Mayo restaurant owner said she “did not know how much longer we’ll be able to keep going”.

Traffic

Gina Murphy, owner of Hugo’s on Merrion Row, in Dublin city centre, said her restaurant also had no outdoor dining space.

Dublin City Council is considering proposals to reduce traffic on the street to one lane, and provide more outdoor seating space for restaurants and pubs. There had been “overwhelming support” for the pedestrianisation proposal, which would hopefully attract more people into the city centre, Ms Murphy said.

The reopening of hospitality last summer was a “disaster” for city centre businesses, due to the lack of footfall. “It nearly wiped us all out,” she said.

At the time her restaurant had been down to less than a quarter of its usual turnover, which was “not sustainable or viable”, she said.

Ms Murphy said she had “great faith” in the council’s pedestrianisation proposal materialising in time for the resumption of outdoor dining in early June. “All we want to do is go back to work,” she said.

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