These moves form part of a €25 million plan to give grants for outdoor seating, awnings and heaters to 3,500 pubs so that they can offer outdoor dining.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, “The final decision on whether to extend the reopening to wet pubs – licensed premises that do not serve food – has yet to be taken.
“A spokesman for Catherine Martin, the Tourism Minister, said grants for seating and accessories are available under a scheme to help businesses offering outdoor dining and work has begun to examine how wet pubs ‘can be similarly supported’.”
Discussions between officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing began on Friday together with the County and City Management Association about facilitating the expanded scheme with a review of local authority bylaws and Lockdown regulations, according to the report.
Today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkae stated that he’s currently working with Minister Catherine Martin on grants for ‘wet’ pubs.
He was speaking at this afternoon’s ‘Emerging Stronger’ Zoom conference, hosted by Ivan Yates and organised by the LVA, VFI and Hospitality Ulster, sponsored by Diageo’s Raising the Bar.
Vintners react positively to comments
Reaction from the trade to the announcement has been positive.
The VFI is pleased that the Government has recognised that traditional pubs should avail of supports equal to the ones available to food pubs and restaurants.
“The proposals to allow traditional pubs apply for an outdoor grant remain vague so our principle request is for Government to produce the details and then roll-out the scheme as soon as possible, bearing in mind outdoor trading resumes in less than four weeks’ time,” the VFI’s Brian Foley told Drinks Industry Ireland, adding that, “The original outdoor scheme should never have launched in its current format.
“The Government has consistently said that people should spend as much time outdoors as possible this Summer,” he continued, “That being the case, it would be perverse to penalise hospitality outlets based on the fact they don’t serve food. The mandatory food provision is now, rightfully, consigned to history along with the awful division it created in the pub trade. Equality of opportunity has been the VFI mantra for the past year, all schemes and supports should be open to all pubs.
“It’s equally important that an opening date for indoor trading is announced by the end of May. While outdoor trading is suitable for some businesses, for most pubs indoor trading is the only pathway to profitability.”
The LVA too has been engaged with Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Tourism and the Department of Enterprise on the provision of grant-aid for traditional pubs for outdoor seating on the same basis as is now available for outdoor dining.
“We’ve also raised the issue directly with the Tánaiste,” stated LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keefe, “We will continue to press the matter and are hopeful of a positive response from Government shortly.”
Staff shortages looming
However other hurdles such as looming staff shortages remain ahead of the licensed and the retail trades.
Picking up skilled bartenders will be no easy task following the current Lockdown as many have now left the hospitality industry altogether.
And hotels opening several days before restaurants and food pubs means that the former will have the pick of the choice in chefs etc.