A coherent roadmap to a sustainable reopening is vital therefore if the trade is to survive in 2020 believes the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland. As pubs serving food now face another round of calls to suppliers to cancel orders, staff fear for their jobs while a further erosion of customer confidence is likely to result, it stated.
“The message to Government is clear: tell our members what’s going on and tell them now.”
The latest indication that the Government is to lockdown the hospitality sector once again showcases the failure of Government strategy in dealing with the pandemic, according to the Licensed Vintners Association.
Pointing to the repeated use of the Lockdown tactic by the Government, the Licensed Vintners Association stated that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the “definition of madness”. One-third of Dublin pubs have now been closed since mid-March while around half of the pubs across the rest of the country have traded for just three weeks during this period.
Pubs serving food went through a six-week closure while traditional pubs have been closed since the 15th of March bar a brief two-week trading period in late September.
“No business sector can survive such a violent undermining of its foundations,” stated the VFI.
“This latest announcement caps an utterly disastrous year for the pub sector,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “While the vast majority of our members never got to reopen in early December, pubs serving food were given a chance to trade into next year – but now that’s been snatched from them.”
This will be the third lockdown that the hospitality sector has faced yet no outbreaks have been associated with pubs since reopening according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre’s latest data.
“It’s as clear as day that the sector needs a concise explanation – a roadmap – from Government and NPHET detailing under what conditions all pubs will be allowed reopen,” said Padraig Cribben, “The prolonged uncertainty has placed our members in the cruellest of limbos where there’s zero clarity from decision-makers about the trade’s future.
“It’s obvious that closing hospitality is NPHET’s only lever to pull. Non-essential retail will remain open while people will congregate in homes throughout the Christmas period. For Government to say new restrictions will be placed on gatherings in homes is utterly meaningless, such restrictions will be ignored.”
What VFI members found particularly galling was the latest HPSC data revelation that pubs are responsible for no outbreaks while a massive 79% have been traced to private dwellings. Pubs are safe, regulated environments, a fact NPHET appears to wish to ignore, he stated.
The LVA too described the Government’s approach of singling out pubs, restaurants and hotels as “crushing” the hospitality sector, with the latest announcement “yet more devastating news”.
The LVA’s Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe asked, “How can an entire industry be expected to keep going like this – allowed to open up and then shut down again after only three weeks?
“The implications this will have on staff, on stock, on bills and on the mental health of those working in hospitality is going to be enormous.
“It’s clear that the Government’s yo-yo approach isn’t working. The Government and NPHET seem to have a one-track mind when it comes to dealing with this pandemic – repeated lockdowns which are crushing the hospitality sector.
“They’ve already kept the traditional pubs in Dublin closed since mid-March without evidence to back this approach. This is another disproportionate response which shows how limited the Government and NPHET are, how poorly thought-out their approach is and narrow scope of their focus. Yet again it’s the hospitality sector being picked on for a rise in infections occurring in settings across the economy and across the country.”
The Government needs to provide a new strategy for hospitality and provide some hope for the sector, he said.
“We provide safe, controlled and policed environments with HPSC data showing there have been no outbreaks associated with pubs since reopening.
“We are again calling on the Government to set out a fully-formed roadmap for the hospitality sector and until we are allowed to reopen on a sustainable footing, to double the level of Covid Restriction Support Scheme support for the pub sector while we’re forced to stay shut through no fault of our own,” he concluded.
“We need face-to-face engagement with Government immediately as the hospitality sector needs clarity now,” agreed Padraig Cribben, pointing out that Government waiting until tomorrow to make an announcement is “shocking” and is “simply too late for businesses that need to make decisions today.
“A potential shut-down date of the 28th of December will effectively close many businesses on Christmas Eve as few will wish to reopen for a couple of days only to close again,” he added, “It’s a complete mess”.