The VFI described the Government announcement on the planned easing of restrictions as a “missed opportunity” as it should have contained clear details of how pubs can reopen.
While public health, rightfully, remains the number one concern, Government needs to create a plan that allows the hospitality sector understand and plan for how it is to reopen, stated the Federation. Questions like how many people need to be vaccinated before pubs reopen need to be addressed, it added.
“The pub sector is not calling for a reopening date but we urgently require an understanding of how we get to reopen,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “Right now, our members exist in an information vacuum that’s causing severe distress.
“Countries like Denmark and England have clear timelines for reopening different sectors of society. We need a plan that links the vaccine roll-out to reopening. We’re heading into April with no clear idea about how the hospitality sector will get back on its feet.
Last night’s announcement was a missed opportunity as far as the pub sector is concerned, he said.
“It’s very worrying for our members who badly need a some message of hope for the future.”
The LVA also expressed its disappointment in the lack of even a brief reference to pubs and restaurants in the Taoiseach’s remarks.
“We continue to be left in the dark and guessing about our pathway to reopening,” it stated this morning, “The hundreds of thousands working in the hospitality sector need hope. The Government has a responsibility to provide that hope and to start sharing their broad plans for what circumstances will allow for the reopening of these businesses operating across the country, many of which are family-run and all of whom are worried about the future of their businesses.”
Before yesterday’s announcement, the Association had already stated that following the longest, most severe hospitality lockdown in Europe, the Government now had a responsibility to provide the hundreds of thousands of people impacted with a general indication of how much longer they’ll be left in lockdown.
Such businesses cannot be left in perpetual Lockdown, stated LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “As we move into the second quarter of the year surely it’s time that the Government started sharing their broad plans with the rest of the country”.
€17m funding for outdoor to be announced
The Government announcement came one day before Fáilte Ireland is due to announce a €17 million grant for businesses in the hospitality sector wishing to develop or upgrade their outside dining areas.
Through the local council, the funding will be for the development of “medium-to large-scale permanent public dining spaces” in towns, aimed at welcoming back visitors when safe to do so according to a report in today’s Independent. According to the report, each council can apply for up to €200,000 which will then allow them to implement weather-proofing solutions to facilitate year-round outdoor dining.
Applicants can apply for a grant of up to €4,000 (up to 75% of the ex-VAT cost of equipment purchased/installed).
Costs for outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas, electric heaters, screens/windbreaks, plant stands and wooden platforms will be covered under the Scheme.
Expenditure must be incurred between the 1st of April 2020 and the 30th of September 2021 and the scheme will open for applications on April the 12th through Local Authority websites.
Retail Ireland bemoans continuing click-and-collect restrictions
Retail Ireland, the Ibec group representing the retail sector, also expressed disappointment and frustration at the failure of Government to reintroduce click-and-collect retail services as part of its easing of Coivd restrictions.
The group said click-and-collect provides a safe means of providing customers with the products they need. A ban on click-and-collect has not been a feature of even the highest levels of Covid restrictions in the majority of European countries.
“Click-and-collect would provide a crucial additional sales channel for those retailers currently closed,” said Retail Ireland Director Arnold Dillon, “It’s particularly important for smaller businesses where delivery costs are prohibitive. These businesses have been the hardest hit by Covid restrictions and are the least equipped to compete with online platforms.
“The delayed reopening of the wider retail sector has compounded the serious difficulties many retailers are facing. A significant number will not survive the crisis without enhanced and prolonged Government support. Retail restrictions in the Republic are now diverging from those in Northern Ireland which has the potential to incentivise cross-border shopping. We need to work towards an all-island approach.”