This eight week period until the end of August is seen as vital for publicans as it remains the only realistic opportunity to salvage something from 2021 and tide them over until next year.
The Licensed Vintners Association has called on the Government to make a decision on the reopening of indoor hospitality this week, saying an announcement made on the 2nd of July will be too late if reopening is to go ahead on the 5th of July.
The LVA has also called on the Government to stop the “mixed messaging, with different views being expressed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister Damien English over the last 48 hours”.
It points out that approximately 40% – or more – of the pubs in Ireland are currently unable to provide outdoor service with some of these not having opened their doors for 464 consecutive days and counting.
To date, the Government had widely flagged that indoor service would resume for pubs and other hospitality businesses on the 5th of July.
However there is now widespread doubt throughout the sector about what’s to happen following the latest bout of contradictory messages from Government.
The LVA believes this is not a tolerable position for the entire hospitality sector who can’t be expected to make decisions about hiring staff, securing supplies and preparing their premises at such short notice.
“The Government has to make up its mind and come to a decision this week,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “They can’t reasonably expect the entire hospitality industry to wait until 2nd July for what their decision will be and then be in a position to potentially reopen three days later. This is not practical and it’s not how these businesses operate. They need to make decisions in relation to hiring staff, ordering stock and supplies, getting their premises ready to open. If all of that is to proceed they need to have sufficient notice.
“You’d think the Government would be aware of this and the pressures they’re unnecessarily placing on everyone in the hospitality sector after what has been going on for the last 15 months.
“The hospitality sector deserves more respect than that to have such a massive decision left until the last minute.
“The Government also needs to stop taking different positions on their messaging as it is creating stress and confusion for everyone.
“It has to stop,” he continued, “The tens of thousands of people in hospitality who’re awaiting news of whether we’ll get to provide indoor service from 5th July shouldn’t be left second-guessing which member of Cabinet they should believe.
“Consistency of message and approach surely isn’t too much to ask from Government given the enormity of this decision for our sector,” he concluded.
Any delay to reopening will devastate pub sector says VFI
The comments from Government ministers that 5th July reopening may be delayed is causing huge upset and concern in the hospitality sector, agreed VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben.
“With only two weeks to go it’s not acceptable to treat our members in this manner,” he said, “There are just eight weeks in the Summer season for pubs to recoup some of the massive losses accumulated over the past 15 months, so to tell publicans they may lose any of those weeks will devastate the trade.
“The business generated in July and August will sustain most pubs through the Winter and into next year so for Government to delay reopening during the Summer will impact the sector to a much greater degree than, for instance, a delay in January.
“Publicans are busy rehiring staff and ordering stock so this new uncertainty places them in an impossible position. They need immediate confirmation that reopening on 5th July will proceed as planned.
“The fact Government will not make a final decision until Friday 2nd July – just three days before reopening – illustrates how detached Ministers are from the realities of running a business. The mental stress this uncertainty is placing on our members cannot be overstated.
“The easing of restrictions and reopening of society has been a relatively smooth process that publicans support, including the resumption of outdoor trade on 7th June.
“It’s beyond belief we’re now thinking of going backwards while the rest of Europe moves forward. Pubs in England reopened indoors on 17th May while pubs in Northern Ireland have been fully open for over four weeks. Denmark is allowing 40,000 spectators attend Euro 2020 matches.
“We’re also facing the resumption of unrestricted travel to EU countries from 19th July. Is the Government seriously suggesting that people can travel to Spain for a pint while pubs back home remain shut?
“We’re already lagging behind the UK and mainland Europe when it comes to reopening. July 5th must proceed as planned,” he emphasised.