However a number of requirements seem likely to cause problems for vintners that do not serve food. These include a prohibition on counter service (and thus sitting on barstools) as well as two-metre Social Distancing which may be reduced to one metre “in controlled environments” if other risk mitigation requirements have been met. The draft guidelines also state that, “There should be a maximum of six people from a maximum of three households allowed at a table”.
The draft guidance also makes it clear that, “The bar counter cannot be used for seating or service to customers”. Apart from barring locals from sitting at the bar, therefore, this is likely to have the effect of increasing the number of waiting staff to serve on tables.
“Not being able to use the bar counter with table service only is very significant and will really limit the non-food pubs,” commented LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keefe who wondered whether or not many of the pubs still closed will be able to open with these guidelines.
“They are far from ideal but given that these pubs have been closed for six months we guess this is the price we will have to pay.”
Similarly, proprietors will have to limit the number of bar staff behind the bar at one time and keep a record of who is on duty and when. Publicans should also try to keep the same team combinations where possible to limit employee interaction.
According to the draft guidance note, proprietors are instructed to, “Divide the bar into areas/zones and allocate a zone to each employee. Minimise and control the movement between these areas”.
Time limits & Social Distancing requirements
Time limits on customers will also come into force where one metre Social Distancing applies. “Pre-booked time-limited slots must be in place for customers which are a maximum of 105 minutes duration plus a minimum of 15 minutes between bookings in order to allow for adequate cleaning and to allow customers to leave and enter without mixing.”
However the guidelines add, “Pre-booking and time-limited slots of 105 minutes duration are not a requirement if physical distancing of 2 metres* is strictly maintained”.
Open spaces and toilet areas are also legislated for: “Ensure there are systems in place to prevent intermingling in communal areas (eg entrances, exits and toilet facilities)”.
In order to ensure physical distancing a strict queueing system for toilets and limitations on the number of users must be enforced.
Contact tracing will also be required for wet pubs.
These and other premises serving alcohol “must keep a record of the time and date of arrival at the premises of a group/sole customer and the name and telephone number of the lead person in a group/sole customer for Covid-19 contact tracing SI 326 2020. These records should be kept for 28 days”.
The draft guidance document has been drawn up by the government in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland.
The final set of guidelines are likely to be published as part of a new National Plan to be disclosed in the middle of this month.
“The guidelines as presented will be onerous for our members to implement but at this stage publicans are desperate to open so will find a way to make them work,” VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben told the Irish Independent, “We’ve seen restaurants and pubs serving food successfully trade over the past eight weeks so the pathway is there for the remainder of pubs to follow.
“Huge challenges remain for the trade, not least making socially distanced pubs a success.
“Right now, we need clarity and certainty on when our members will be allowed open.
“It’s clear from European countries that sector-wide lockdowns are not required.
“We need to learn to live alongside the virus.”