The Report on Impact of Occupancy Numbers on Licensed Premises as a result of Covid-19 from Knapton Consulting Engineers points out that before the Covid-19 crisis, maximum occupancy in a licensed premises was calculated at a rate of two persons per square metre for standing areas and one person per square metre for seated areas.
The report takes a look at a number of occupancy scenarios including the 2m Social Distancing guidelines as issued by the Health Service Executive and the 1m Social Distancing guidelines as issued by the World Health Organisation.
Where a pre-Covid occupancy of a 100 square metre room resulted in some 200 people able to stand, the WHO guideline of 1m reduces this by 50% to 100 persons standing. But the HSE’s 2m Social Distancing guidance reduces this figure to just 25 standing, just 12.5% of the pre-existing capacity.
In the same 100 square metre room 100 people could be seated pre-Covid-19. Applying the WHO’s physical distancing guidelines of 1m between people this population would decrease to 65, a 35% reduction in overall capacity. But applying HSE guidelines of 2m between people reduces the permissible population to just 34 persons, a 66% reduction on the pre-Covid population.
140 square metre outlet
For a typical pub or bar/restaurant with an area of 140 square metres the report found that total capacity would drop by 79% if the bar and seating areas were square in shape and not enclosed. However the report noted an “87% reduction in capacity figure is a much more representative figure for a typical bar and restaurant layout when the 2m physical distancing restrictions are applied”.
While each licensed premises is different in size, shape and layout, the report notes that, more complex geometries will result in lower occupancies when physical distancing is applied ie physical distancing will result in a greater reduction in occupancy for narrow, small pubs than on those with larger circulation spaces with higher footfalls.
“Up to now, there has been a lot of speculation about what a Social Distancing environment actually looks like in a pub or bar/restaurant,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “Various figures have been bandied about which did not provide clarity to the sector. We’re now only a matter of weeks away from pubs with restaurant certificates and other hospitality venues re-opening. That’s due to be followed six weeks later by the reopening of other pubs across the country. It’s vital that pub businesses fully grasp the commercial challenges they will face and thoroughly examine the prospects for whether they can afford to re-open.
“While every pub and bar/restaurant will have different layouts and configurations, the findings will broadly apply across the sector and they are stark. Seated capacity will drop to approximately one third of previous levels while standing capacity can be divided by a factor of eight. Those are dramatic decreases and they will have an extreme impact on turnover potential. The WHO requirements will still significantly reduce capacity but they will at least allow more pubs and other hospitality businesses to be capable of trading in the shorter term. But that is a decision for the Government and the public health officials,” he concluded.
Since the beginning of this crisis, pubs have put the public health first, said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “We were the first sector to be closed en masse which was widely supported by pubs across the country in the interests of public health. Ultimately, if there’s to be a change in Social Distancing then that will need to be made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and the Government.”
“From the perspective of commercial viability, the WHO guidelines obviously make much more sense for hospitality venues such as pubs,” he continued, “While we have been calling for equality of opportunity to re-open for some time, the question still remains as how many pubs will actually be able to operate once the opportunity arises? That is a question that is still being asked by publicans across the country and we will certainly need further guidance on the re-opening protocols in the near future to allow fully-formed business decisions to be made in advance of any reopening.”
Both the LVA and VFI will continue to abide by the public health guidance issued by the Government as they have done since the beginning of the current Covid-19 crisis.