In that interview the Minister commented, “I’d like to see a situation whereby our schools could come back or at least could come partially back.
“What’s not going to come back quickly are scenarios in which we can’t safely socially distance.
“So I can’t see how people can be in packed pubs again as long as this virus is still with us and we don’t have a vaccine or an effective treatment.”
With international experts estimating that the Coronavirus vaccine, if created at all, will not be available for 12 to 18 months, the Minister indicated that this might require closing pubs until 2021.
In response the LVA has branded the Minister’s comments “the nightmare scenario for the pub sector” which will put many out of business for good.
“That is the absolute nightmare scenario for the entire pub sector,” stated LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “If that happens then most pub businesses in this country will be out of business for good.
“The LVA and its members will absolutely support whatever measures are deemed necessary in the interests of public health as we have done from the beginning of this crisis, but if closing pubs until 2021 is going to be necessary then it is essential that a pub-specific support scheme is introduced. Otherwise there won’t be a pub industry in this country by the time a vaccine is found.
“The LVA welcomed the strong Government support for the 50,000 staff laid-off as a result of the crisis. This will have to be extended for the duration of the pub closure period. However unless it is supplemented with a specific support scheme to keep the pubs themselves afloat, the staff will have no jobs to return to.
“This is undoubtedly a very difficult time for everyone in this country. While Minister Harris is doing an exceptional job at a time of national crisis, his comments have really petrified the entire pub sector across the country and many are now concerned not only about how to survive this pandemic but also whether they will still have a business when this crisis eventually passes,” he concluded.
In its response the Vintners Federation of Ireland’s Chief Executive Padraig Cribben stated, “Regarding when can pubs re-open, our members need answers. At present, there is little hard facts about a possible timeline other than the thoughts of some ministers when asked during interviews.
“We’re asking Minister Simon Harris to meet with representatives of the pub sector to discuss a pathway out of this crisis for our members. Publicans fully understand that public health comes first but they need guidance about what possible timeframe lies ahead.
“Right now, there’s an information vacuum which is being filled with rumour and idle speculation that is only increasing our members’ anxiety.
“We require clarity on the minister’s comments about social distancing, its impact on pubs and when they can re-open,” he concluded, “We know this is a major challenge but it’s one that has to be addressed now.”