The VFI says its members and staff will require a comprehensive new package of supports if the trade is to survive until restrictions are lifted.
“The original plan to lockdown the country for six weeks until early December so, in the words of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, the country could have a ‘meaningful’ Christmas now lies in tatters,” stated the VFI, “The hospitality sector was prevented from even making it to St Stephen’s Day.”
According to VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “Once again the hospitality sector has been treated in appalling fashion with little notice about this closure which will result in huge costs for our members who have to dump expensive stock. There is also the equally important issue of staff who now face another extended period on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
“Many staff only returned to work because they were promised pubs serving food would remain open into January.
“Our members who were allowed reopen for under three weeks must now reapply for the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme but at this stage, with little prospect of a full reopening in the short-term, we’re calling for the CRSS to be increased for all pubs to 30% of 2019 turnover. “Government must understand its decisions are decimating our trade so the supports on offer have to recognise that fact.
“We need clear communications from Government about how our members will be allowed resume trading. The good news is vaccines will end the pandemic but how and when will that happen? There is zero clarity about what level of vaccine coverage we require before restrictions will be lifted. The longer the crisis continues the less confidence our members have that Government has any sort of plan to get pubs open. Publicans urgently require a timeline because right now they’re completely in the dark, which is having a massive impact on people’s mental health.
“The overwhelming message we get from our members is ‘just tell us the plan for getting open’. They want information about the way forward. Right now, there is a total absence of clarity.
“It’s hard to believe but Ireland’s pub sector is ending 2020 in a worse position than it was back in March when the virus first appeared.”
Sustainable solutions needed
In effect, the Government has laid-off 25,000 people working in pubs across the country on Christmas Eve, thus generating enormous levels of stress amongst publicans and their staff according to the Licensed Vintners Association which warned that the “tug of war” around reopening will start again in earnest from the beginning of January 2021 unless the Government starts coming up with more sustainable solutions.
The Association also highlighted the ineffectiveness of the Government’s approach to hospitality and its lack of consideration of the significant safety requirements introduced to pubs in the interim which must close yet again.
With the hospitality sector now set to close on Christmas Eve for the third time this year, the LVA has said a new approach is now required before the stop/start mechanism devours the industry in 2021.
The LVA also characterised the latest actions taken by Government as proof of its strategy failing the hospitality sector. Despite shutting hospitality in Dublin in September and around the rest of the country at the beginning of October, these measures proved ineffective in preventing a wider lockdown of the economy. Traditional pubs in Dublin have been closed continuously since March.
“This is yet another example of horrendous treatment of the hospitality sector by the Government,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe,
“The day before Christmas they’re laying-off half the staff in the industry and providing them with a very uncertain future having previously forsaken the other half of the industry working in traditional pubs.
“Their whole strategy basically consists of one tool, lockdown,” he continued, “No alterations in their approach, no considering thinking. Instead, their kneejerk reaction is to throw hospitality under the bus once more. They seem hellbent on pursuing this course of action despite a complete absence of any statistical evidence showing that hospitality is the cause of the rise of infections in this country. They also continually fail to account for the extensive safety requirements implemented by the hospitality sector in this country.
“They need to take into account the ongoing uncertainty this is causing, the enormous stress this is putting people working in the industry under and the damage these repeated closures is doing to these businesses. They also need to provide better supports to those working in the hospitality sector if they still want to have a viable hospitality sector in this country when the pandemic ends. Staff are already seeking out new career paths.
“Either the Government needs to come up with more sustainable solutions or the tug of war to have the hospitality sector reopen will begin again in earnest from the beginning of January. They can’t keep doing this or this stop/start approach will devour the industry in 2021,” he concluded.
The Association also called again on the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD to honour his commitment to meet with the LVA to plan for the sustained reopening of the entire pub sector which now needs to happen as a matter of immediate urgency.