Currently 3,500 pubs across the country remain closed, impacting approximately 25,000 employees as well as their families.
The government agreed the date at this morning’s cabinet meeting and the announcement followed sustained lobbying from vintners and even TDs.
In welcoming the announcement, the Licensed Vintners Association and the Vintners Federation of Ireland pointed out that non-food pubs will have been closed for 189 days – more than six months – by the time they get to re-open.
This will be the fourth re-opening date given to the non-food pubs, with the Government previously having delayed re-openings scheduled for the 20th of July, the 10th of August and the 31st of August.
Pubs were the first part of the economy to close at the beginning of the crisis, with pubs across the country closing their doors in the interest of public health on the 15th of March.
It was also noted that the Government was likely to force thousands of these pubs into defaulting on their mortgage if they hadn’t been allowed to re-open, with the six-month moratorium due to close at the end of this month. The banks had indicated to both organisations that this moratorium could not be extended.
Strict guidelines have been put forward by the Government in proceeding with the opening of these pubs which will require table service only and no bar service. These guidelines also put a strong emphasis on Social Distancing.
“It’s about time this decision was made,” commented LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “We feel there was little justification for the Government to have repeatedly delayed the re-opening. If all pubs are following Social Distancing then they should all have had the opportunity to get their doors open long before now.
“The vast majority of pubs have acted incredibly responsibly during this crisis and the pubs still closed have taken a real hit for the good of public health. It’s about time that this contribution was acknowledged by the Government.”
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben agreed, saying, “The support package put forward by the Government was derisory and this financial reality facing the pubs who’re still closed needs to be recognised in a meaningful way.
“We have been marched up this hill several times before, however this will come as a real relief to the 3,500 pubs across Ireland who are still closed as well as their staff and all the families concerned.
“The Government have belatedly acknowledged that we need to live with this virus and that meant having the pubs re-opened. The conditions facing these pubs will be tough once they re-open having completely missed the Summer tourist season, strict guidelines being in place and their capacity severely impacted.
“However at least there is now a sliver of light after what has been a very dark six months.”
Irish drinks suppliers too have welcomed the decision.
Drinks Ireland said that the sector will now work with publicans to supply product for the re-opening, including brewing beer and delivering kegs. It will also work with pubs to clean beer lines, a necessary step before re-opening.
This is a lengthy and costly process that will require the next two weeks, it stated, adding that this decision should not be reversed and it called for no ‘stop and start’ approach to pubs re-opening.
At the start of the crisis, Irish brewers undertook a massive keg uplift to collect out-of-date beer. It also gave support in the delivery of beer and the cleaning of beer lines ahead of the previously abandoned date for the full re-opening of the sector.
Drinks Ireland will launch a new campaign in the coming days, #OpeningTime, to highlight the importance of getting Irish pubs open safely and sustainably.
“Pubs that serve food have been given the chance to re-open and are managing the safety of their customers,” pointed out Drinks Ireland Director Patricia Callan,
“It’s important that we avoid a ‘stop and start’ approach with regards the re-opening of pubs. A huge amount of investment, time and work goes into the re-opening of pubs, both from the perspective of publicans and from drinks suppliers.”
Publication of the final guidelines for wet pubs needs to follow closely on the recent draft guidelines circulated to stakeholders.