While last night’s announcement constitutes an important and welcome first step, the VFI’s call for a resumption of indoor trading comes after it was confirmed hotels can open from early June.
The VFI is also “extremely pleased” that last year’s ‘substantial meal’ provision has been abandoned this year and the artificial divide between pubs serving food and traditional venues no longer applies.
“After a tortuous year for the pub trade, it’s hugely positive that our members can reopen their doors for outdoor trading from the 7th of June,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “It’s an important first step to getting the trade fully reopen but can only be viewed as a short-term solution and we’re calling on Government to confirm a date to restart indoor trading as soon as possible.
“The fact hotels can reopen indoors from early June demonstrates that it’s safe to resume hospitality, with appropriate Social Distancing, in such venues. It would be wholly unfair to allow hotels trade indoors but prohibit pubs and restaurants from doing so.
“Reopening outdoor trading from the June Bank Holiday Monday will instil some badly needed confidence into the pub sector,” he continued, “While it will be a momentous day for some, it’s important to recognise the majority of pubs do not have outdoor space so those publicans will be anxiously waiting for confirmation of an indoor reopening date.”
However the Government’s decision to permit hotel & guesthouse restaurants to operate as normal for residents by offering indoor dining options from the proposed date of Thursday the 2nd of June whilst continuing to restrict independent restaurants, coffee shops and gastropubs to outdoor dining only from the 7th of June was met with “disbelief, confusion and frustration” by the Restaurants Association of Ireland.
“We’re calling on the Government to publish the medical and scientific evidence deeming a hotel or guesthouse restaurant safer than an independent restaurant, coffee shop or gastropub,” said RAI Chief Executive Adrian Cummins, “Restaurants, hotels, cafes and gastropubs have all followed and implemented the exact same safety protocols for diners since June of last year.
“I want to be clear, if the medical advisors have decided it’s now safe for indoor dining then hotels should reopen; what we’re asking for is indoor dining equality and to reopen at the same time!”
Over the last year the hospitality industry has introduced extensive Fáilte Ireland Guidelines and health and safety measures relating to the training of staff, operation and layout of their facilities (including Social Distancing and sanitisation) pointed out the RAI Chief Executive.
The decision to divide hotel restaurants and independent restaurants into two categories is an anti-competitive, inequitable decision and without medical, scientific or public health rationale, believes the RAI. This also prohibits independent restaurant-owners from functioning viably over the Summer-time and in fact prohibits the re-employment of around 110,000 workers, he added.
No more Lockdown
The VFI’s Padraig Cribben also warned against any moves to re-impose Lockdown going forward.
“The consistent message from publicans is that once they reopen they must be allowed stay open,” he stated, “There can be no return to the periodic Lockdowns of the past year. They devastated the trade and it will take years to mount a full recovery.
“The 7th of June reopening will be a big day for the trade but there remains some distance to travel before the pub trade is back on its feet,” he concluded.