Following media reports suggesting that the Government plans to keep ‘wet’ pubs shut, the Association cited the recent report from the Health Information and Quality Authority which shows there to be no evidence that ‘wet’ pubs pose a greater risk than restaurants.
The Association pointed out that Berlin D2 operates on a Restaurant Licence which allowed it to reopen during the Summer. On the other hand Grogans has now been shut by Government restrictions for 252 consecutive days since the middle of March.
Approximately 250 ‘wet’ pubs in Dublin have thus been kept closed during that period including other iconic venues such as McDaids and O’Donoghues on Merrion Row.
In all, ‘wet’ pubs across Ireland have opened for just over two weeks across the eight months since the crisis began.
The LVA notes that the Government guidelines for restaurants, food pubs and wet pubs recognise all these premises as “controlled environments”. All share the same Government guidelines relating to:
- Social/Physical Distancing requirements
- Lengths of stay
- Use of PPE and sanitiser
- Table service only
- No counter service.
“The HIQA report doesn’t show any evidence that ‘wet’ pubs pose a greater risk than restaurants, while the Government’s own guidelines acknowledge wet pubs and restaurants as being ‘controlled environments’,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “The Government’s guidelines even have the same regulations in place for restaurants and wet pubs – the same Social Distancing, the same lengths of stay, the same use of PPE and the same provision for table service only.
“Yet if current media reports are to be believed then the Government is gearing up to punish the pubs that have remained closed for the last eight months.
“How is it fair that the Government seems intent on allowing the likes of Berlin D2 to trade while keeping venues that have been impeccable during this crisis, like Grogans, closed?” he asked, “If the Government adopt this approach, what they are saying is that they don’t trust publicans, pub-staff or pub-goers to follow the guidelines. It will be a formal indication from Government that they think of pubs as ‘lesser’.
“Such an approach would strike us as a very obvious and discriminatory restraint of trade position if it were to be adopted by the Government. It is also a position that the pub trade can never accept.”
VFI seeks opening for all
The Vintners Federation of Ireland also believes that pubs, restaurants and cafes must be allowed the opportunity to open together when lockdown restrictions are lifted as the Government’s own data proves private dwellings, not hospitality outlets, are the primary source of Covid outbreaks.
The VFI also reminded Government that back in September the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that all pubs would be given the option to reopen at the same time once lockdown ended.
The vintners’ call for equality comes as data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre reveals pubs to be one of the lowest risk sectors, below even restaurants, accounting for just 0.28% of outbreaks and clusters recorded since the pandemic began. In contrast, gatherings in houses are responsible for almost 75% of cases.
“The evidence is clear that all hospitality outlets should be given the choice to open,” believed VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “The idea that non-food pubs should be forced to remain shut is a non-starter especially when you consider the Government’s own data that pubs are responsible for such a small number of outbreaks. As a sector, all we want is the opportunity to open and trade. It would be crazy to divide us again and it makes no sense given all we’ve learned about how to manage Social Distancing in pubs.
“While there’s plenty of comment that restaurants will be permitted to open next week, we would remind Government that according to their own figures pubs are safer than restaurants. All we’re saying is give pubs the opportunity to trade in a safe and secure manner.
“We know that socialising is going to take place. The key question for government is – will it be safer in a controlled environment, with Social Distancing, mask-wearing and proper hand-sanitisation, like the pub, or in a private gathering where little of these precautions will be in place and where we know almost three-quarters of all clusters emanate from?
“We also know there’s pent-up demand after a very difficult year. Permitting all pubs to open will distribute demand across as many safe and controlled venues as possible.
“We’ve 50,000 staff waiting this week to find out if they can go back to work. They need to be working in December to provide a reasonable Christmas for their families and are surely entitled to that as a minimum after the best part of nine months on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment,” he concluded.