Unified approach to outdoor dining needed, says Restaurant Association

Vintners Federation would not be in favour of a return of the €9 substantial meal rule

 Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has said businesses need grant aid so they can afford to install infrastructure such as outdoor heaters, canopies, and wind-breakers. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has said businesses need grant aid so they can afford to install infrastructure such as outdoor heaters, canopies, and wind-breakers. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

 

The Government should enforce a unified policy across all local authorities on measures to facilitate outdoor dining over the summer months, the chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has said.

Adrian Cummins said there were significant disparities between councils last year in relation to allowing restaurants use public spaces near their premises.

He said the association wants to see all fees and licences waived this year and for bureaucracy to be reduced to make it easier to get outdoor facilities approved.

Restaurants should be allowed to utilise adjacent parking spaces or sections of footpath for outdoor seating, he said.

Mr Cummins cited Westport town council as one that worked closely with local businesses last year to ensure outdoor dining could be accommodated.

“You have good councils and bad councils . . . What we really need now is one policy across all councils, and we need one department to charter this and lead the way,” he said.

Safely reopen

Mr Cummins said businesses needed grant aid so they could afford to install infrastructure such as outdoor heaters, canopies and wind-breakers. All the materials needed to facilitate outdoor dining in Irish weather could be as high as €1,000 per seat, he claimed.

Mr Cummins said outdoor dining will only be a possibility for 20 per cent of its members, and restaurateurs needed to know when they will be allowed to safely reopen.

“Our view on this is it is down to the vaccination rollout . . . There is a race against time here to get us open in mid-June for indoor dining,” he said, adding that the association sees September as the “absolute finishing line”.

 

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, which represents publicans across the country, said the “vast majority” of its members will not be able to participate in an “outdoor summer”.

The federation would not be in favour of a return of the €9 substantial meal rule, which meant pubs could only reopen if they served food.

He said the industry is primarily focused on a safe return to indoor drinking and dining but there is currently “no certainty” regarding a timeframe.

“What are the conditions needed to get reopened? What rate of the population needs to be vaccinated? We need numbers, metrics and data,” the spokesman said.

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