The two representative bodies for pubs in Ireland, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners’ Association, are unhappy with the Government’s announcement of the plan for leaving lockdown.
Pubs have been left until last as restaurants and cafés receive the ‘all-clear’ some six weeks earlier than the licensed trade under the Five Step government plan.
The two organisations have said that implementing the social distancing guidelines will be just as challenging for all hospitality businesses and that all should be given the same opportunity to trade.
The two organisations also described the phased plan which sees pubs remaining closed while restaurants and cafés can reopen as a ‘Mayday’ moment for pubs and believe that the Government measures are treating them as “second class citizens”.
They’ve asked the Government to explain clearly why they chose to discriminate against pubs in the announcement.
Both organisations are calling on the Government to come forward with a plan specifically geared to maintaining the viability of the pub sector during this crisis and to work with them to overcome any obstacles that exist to re-opening so as to provide certainty to the 50,000 people employed in the industry.
A large proportion of pubs throughout the country already possess restaurant certificates and the VFI & LVA fully expect those pubs to reopen at the same time as the restaurants, taking into account the same public health guidelines that will apply.
“This is a truly horrendous decision that has cataclysmic implications for our members,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “It’s perverse to suggest a pub is incapable of managing social distancing rules while allowing restaurants to trade. We want to hear the Government’s explanation as to why they have taken this decision. Are they saying to publicans ‘we don’t trust you’? It certainly seems that way. It is totally unfair and will cause uproar in the trade.
“We’ve always said that public health is the number one priority during this crisis. If the Department of Health feel restaurants opening doesn’t impact public health, then surely the same logic applies to pubs. All we’re asking for is equal and fair treatment,” he said.
LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe described the plan as “a Mayday moment for the Irish pub industry.
“It beggars belief that our members are being treated in this fashion,” he said, “The decision to keep pubs shut for the foreseeable future while allowing neighbouring restaurants trade will reduce publicans to the status of ‘second-class citizens’. As a matter of urgency we need the Government to engage with both associations to address whatever obstacles exist to pubs reopening. There is still time and we remain fully committed to working with the Government towards an agreed solution for our members.
“More food is consumed in pubs than in full service restaurants or cafés so why should pubs be denied this invaluable source of revenue? Pubs with restaurant licences already have dedicated kitchens, can provide table service and are just as capable of adapting to the public health guidelines as any restaurant or cafe,” he concluded.
However in a response to the vintners’ complaint, Minister Simon Harris has stated that he will meet them and consider their proposals.
“They’ll absolutely get a hearing and we’ll absolutely constructively engage, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever” he said, “Obviously though – and I know they will understand this – we’ll be guided by public health, keeping people well and saving lives.”