The measures likely to be put forward this week by Government in relaxing Level 5 restrictions are proof that it doesn’t trust publicans, pub staff or pub customers, according to the Licensed Vintners Association.
Following suggestions that the Government is to block the reopening of ‘wet’ pubs next month while also making it more difficult for pubs serving food to reopen, the LVA believes that such measures have nothing to do with public safety and amount to a political decision being taken by the Government.
Echoing similar sentiments, the Vintners Federation of Ireland has described speculation that pubs will be permitted to open only if they have a chef and kitchen as “an all-out attack on the pub sector which will create massive unrest”.
The VFI believes, “This is further proof that Government and its National Public Health Emergency Team partners will stop at nothing to grind our sector into the ground. Their actions are demonising a trade that is now fighting for it’s very survival”.
In Dublin, LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe has again asked for the evidence that ‘wet’ pubs pose a greater risk than restaurants or food pubs.
“Where is the evidence that people are more likely to catch Covid-19 if they don’t have a €9 meal?” he asked, “Where is the evidence that people are less likely to be infected if the meal they have was prepared in a dedicated kitchen rather than coming from a nearby pizzeria? There’s no data to support these measures; this is a political decision with the Government showing they’re happy to destroy the pubs of this country.”
Since early March, publicans have acted responsibly and done everything asked of them. But it would appear all this work is to no avail if so-called ‘wet’ pubs cannot reopen while pubs serving food must now take on extra regulations simply to get their doors open.
Most pubs were only allowed to open for two weeks from the end of September, long after the current rise in infections began.
“The Government’s own guidelines have the same Social Distancing measures and time limits in place for ‘wet’ pubs, food pubs and restaurants,” said Donall O’Keeffe, “Yet they’re pursuing policies which will only keep the ‘wet’ pubs closed and ensure that more venues are classified as ‘wet’ pubs. If all these different types of venue have to have the same Social Distancing, time limits and implement table service only, how is one more dangerous than the other?”
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben commented, “It’s difficult to overstate how angry publicans are right now. They feel demonised by the leaks coming from Government, that no matter what regulations and guidelines they implement it won’t be enough for NPHET who clearly have an anti-pub agenda.
“The facts are clear” he continued, “pubs are safer than restaurants according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The Government’s reopening guidelines recognise both pubs and restaurants as ‘controlled environments’, so there’s no logic for allowing restaurants open and refusing pubs the same right.
“What does it say about Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s attitude to pub-goers – that he’s happy to trust restaurant owners and their customers yet, for some inexplicable reason, doesn’t think publicans and their patrons are deserving of trust.
“This attitude to publicans and their customers is appalling and will lead to great distress and unrest among our members. In splitting the hospitality sector in half into winners and losers the Taoiseach is playing with fire. Even at this late stage we ask him to make the common sense decision to allow all pubs reopen like the rest of the hospitality sector.”
LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe went further, believing that this was the Government formally saying it doesn’t trust the publicans of this country to follow the guidelines, it doesn’t trust pub staff to implement them and it doesn’t trust pub customers to behave themselves.
“The Government is pushing a message of ‘individual responsibility’ but when it comes to pubs and pub customers it seems they’re quite happy to deny us such rights and freedoms,” he said, “Our industry has been hit extremely hard during this pandemic. Instead of trying to protect the 50,000 people and their families who depend on this industry they’re almost vindictive in their desire to keep us closed.
“Well, trust is a two way street,” he warned, “Trust in this Government has been eroding for some time and it will be interesting to see what their lack of trust in the pub sector and our customers will mean in the weeks ahead,” he concluded.