The Licensed Vintners Association believes that it now has no option but to go along with the Government proposals for permitting indoor hospitality as the choices came down to keeping hospitality closed for several more months or proceeding with a hugely challenging system.
And Vintners Federation of Ireland Chief Executive Padraig Cribben took the same view, commenting, “Our primary goal is to get our members reopened in a safe manner both for publicans, their staff and customers”.
The VFI and LVA have been involved in high-level discussions with senior Government officials over the past week to find a path to allow pubs reopen for indoor trading.
But most of the discussions yesterday focused on devising a system that allows only vaccinated people and those recovered from Covid indoors.
Hospitality representatives were informed that primary legislation and regulations will be required to allow pubs operate indoors in certain circumstances.
Following yesterday’s meeting six reopening scenarios will be presented to Cabinet for a final decision next Tuesday.
LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe explained, “We don’t like this approach and we don’t want it.
“We feel it is deeply problematic on a practical level. But when the choice comes down to this proposal or staying closed for several more months we feel we have no option but to go along with it. With some pubs having now been shut for almost 16 consecutive months we’re being put over a barrel because we have to get the sector open or more businesses will go bust and thousands more will lose their livelihoods.”
Open to abuse
Donall O’Keeffe continued, “The system they are putting forward is open to abuse and there will be real questions and concerns in the coming weeks as to whether everyone claiming to be vaccinated will be.
“It’s also deeply unfair and discriminatory towards hospitality staff and others who may not yet have been vaccinated or who’re unable to do so for various reasons.
“We’re expecting major problems on the ground such as individuals seeking to gain access under false pretences. Tourists that arrive here on a negative PCR test won’t be permitted indoors.
“We’ve received many reports of members of the public taking serious objections to providing a single contact number for a group and that creating aggravation for the staff involved, so we do anticipate there will be even more difficulties once this approach is implemented.
“Accordingly, we urgently need to see the legislative proposal underpinning this approach.
Need for haste from Government
The LVA Chief Executive pointed out that, “The key question now is whether the Government is moving quickly enough to have this system in place by the 19th of July to allow indoor hospitality to proceed on that date.
“There can be no further delays in clarifying those questions so that everyone in our industry can start working towards a definitive date once and for all,” he concluded, “After the catastrophic delay experienced to date we need the Government to be crystal clear with removing the operational challenges to their approach and achieving a 19 July reopening date.” concluded Donall O’Keeffe.
The VFI’s Padraig Cribben reflected this sentiment.
“If a so-called vaccine pass is what’s required then the onus is now on Government to get the legislation passed next week before the Oireachtas takes its Summer break.
“There remain legal issues to be resolved but we remain insistent that pubs need to reopen on 19th July. If the political will is there to make it happen then it will happen,” he concluded.