On-trade

Pub industry not optimistic that ‘wet’ pubs will be allowed re-open at end of August

Following meetings between the Licensed Vintners Association and the Vintners Federation of Ireland with Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD held over the past few weeks, the pub industry is not optimistic that ‘wet’ pubs will be allowed to re-open at the end of August in light of recent trends in Coronavirus infection numbers.

 

Few in the industry expect they will be allowed to re-open at the end of the month given the gravity of the public health situation.

Few in the industry expect they will be allowed to re-open at the end of the month given the gravity of the public health situation.

 

 As a result, they’re pressing the Government to provide a strong support package now for pubs unable to open due to the public health circumstances.

With pubs being treated differently to other sectors of the economy, the Licensed Vintners Association and the Vintners Federation of Ireland want to see funding provided to all pubs being asked to stay closed due to public health requirements.

Last week the Government announced that pubs not serving food must remain closed at least until the 31st of August 2020 – meaning that 3,500 pubs employing 25,000 people across the country will have been unable to trade by Government order for a minimum of 168 days (46% of the year). This was the second time in three weeks the re-opening had been delayed.

While those pubs still closed want to re-open and trade as their first priority, there’s now growing scepticism across the industry that the Government will allow them to open their doors at the end of this month in light of the critical public health situation that has been developing and the Government’s prioritising the re-opening of schools.

If the Government is to further delay the re-opening of pubs, both the LVA and VFI have said that it’s now critical that a support package for the industry be announced simultaneously.

They’ve called for measures which offer “meaningful support” in the form of grant-aid to be included rather than loans or cuts in indirect tax which will not benefit pubs that are closed.

The specific measures put forward by the vintners groups include:

 

  • the introduction of a ‘Pub Support Package’ to provide direct financial aid to pubs closed by order of the Government. This grant to be calculated on a pro-rata weekly basis linked to the Re-start Grant Plus scheme announced by the Government to all business sectors including hospitality businesses such as restaurants, cafes, hotels as well as pubs serving food. These businesses have been able to resume trading since the 29th of June and this grant aid has been provided to assist them after a maximum closure of 15 weeks. The level of payment provided is linked to their commercial rates and ranges from €4,000 to €25,000. Under the ‘Pub Support Package’ proposed by the vintners, this system of payment would be provided on the same pro-rata weekly basis to pubs for as long as they must continue to keep their doors closed by order of the Government. Accordingly, the payments would range from a low of €270 weekly to a high of €1,650 weekly depending on the rateable valuation of the premises and this would be backdated to the 29th of June onwards for each week the Government keeps these pubs closed

 

  • the maintenance of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme at current rates for all closed pubs until their re-opening

 

  • the extension of current licences for a period of one year until September 2021 for all licensed premises except for any licence renewals which the Gardaí intend to object to this coming September.

 

“As we’ve made clear from the outset of this crisis, pubs want the opportunity to trade responsibly,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “The pubs that are still closed can’t wait to get their doors open again, to interact with their customers and to earn a living. These businesses will abide by the public health requirements; they just want the same chance as was granted to the rest of the economy.

“The clear preference of these pubs is to re-open but if the Government won’t let them then they owe these pubs special support. They’re being denied their right to trade due to the public health situation and they should receive meaningful assistance for as long as that continues. It is also critical that should there be any further delays to re-opening that the Government simultaneously announces a support package. The survival of these businesses depends on it.”

LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe added, “It offers a fair and consistent support to these businesses based on a system of payments already introduced by the Government. It provides a means for sustaining these businesses for as long as they’re ordered to keep their doors closed.

“These businesses have already been left in the lurch with their expected re-opening twice delayed and no consideration given to helping these pubs and employees who are struggling. Few in the industry expect they will be allowed to re-open at the end of the month given the gravity of the public health situation. None of these pubs want to stay closed but if they have to then the Pub Support Package removes the income uncertainty which is currently leaving these pubs at breaking point.

“As the Government has ring fenced these pubs from the rest of the economy, it’s time they ring fenced specific support for closed pubs too,” he concluded.

 

 

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