Pubs seek lifting of ban on use of bar counters as restaurants request later closing time

Government to meet hospitality industry representatives on Wednesday

Under  current Covid-19 restrictions, counter service at pubs is prohibited and all premises must close at 11.30pm, as with restaurants. Photograph:  Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Under current Covid-19 restrictions, counter service at pubs is prohibited and all premises must close at 11.30pm, as with restaurants. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

 

Representatives of the restaurant industry are seeking an end to the 11.30pm Covid-19 closing time rule from September onwards, while publicans are requesting a lifting of the ban on using bar counters.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) will use a meeting between the hospitality industry and Government officials on Wednesday to look for the preparation of a roadmap for the easing of all pandemic-related restrictions.

Indoor dining is currently restricted to people who can prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus and there is a closing time of 11.30pm for every night of the week.

RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said a normalisation of trading hours from September will be “top of our agenda” for his organisation at Wednesday’s meeting.

Normal trading hours would see restaurants able to stay open later from Thursday to Saturday - until 12.30am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Mr Cummins told The Irish Times that this would help with congestion in the public transport system saying that at present “everyone is filing out at half-eleven on Friday and Saturday nights”.

He also said the RAI was seeking a roadmap for the relaxation of all guidelines and restrictions as the vaccination rollout approaches 80 to 85 per cent of adults.

The Government is due to consider any fresh easing of Covid-19 restrictions at the end of August.

Mr Cummins said: “We don’t want to have another 11th hour cliff-edge at the end of August. We want to start the conversation now to have a managed approach to how we start to wind down these restrictions.”

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said publicans want to see a roadmap for the full easing of restrictions and a return to “normality” ready before the end of August.

Its chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “We want a process. We want to see an end to the last minute stuff”.

He said the biggest issue his organisation’s members currently have is the ban on the use of bar counters for customers.

Mr Cribben said the VFI is not looking for a “free for all” at bars but rather for customers to be able to be seated there.

He said that the VFI want a roadmap that outlines what needs to happen for the easing of this rule as well as others on social distancing and the requirement for table service only.

Under the current restrictions, counter service is prohibited and all premises must close at 11.30pm, as with restaurants.

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin’s department has been involved in the talks relating to the reopening of the hospitality sector.

A spokesman said on Tuesday evening: “Tomorrow’s meeting between Department officials and representatives of the hospitality industry is an opportunity for an initial review of the reopening of indoor hospitality, which commenced last week.

“As has been the case at various stages of reopening in recent months, any further easing of restrictions will need to be informed by an assessment of the impact of the current changes and will be guided by latest public health advice and indicators.

“In launching The Path Ahead the Government confirmed its commitment to developing a clear roadmap for a return of activities in the hardest hit sectors.

“Government has already taken significant steps towards the full reopening of the economy and society, building on the acceleration in the vaccine roll-out.

“Minister Martin will be working with Government colleagues over the coming weeks to chart a clear roadmap for the continued re-opening of sectors such as tourism and hospitality.”