The Licensed Vintners Association has described any measures to keep pubs shut while other foodservice venues reopen as a “massive slap in the face for the entire pub sector” which would increase the number of permanent job losses and threaten their future viability while the Vintners Federation of Ireland stated that such a scenario “would create a two-tier hospitality sector and would place pubs at a huge disadvantage as they attempt to rebuild their businesses”.
If the reports are true it would mean a pub serving food would remain shut while a restaurant across the street could open, an outcome with huge implications for the capacity of the pub sector to trade its way out of this crisis, stated the VFI, “Government proposals outline a tiered re-opening of business and social life with restaurants opening in phase two and pubs in a ‘later’ phase, which could mean many more months of forced closure for VFI members.”
All food- and alcohol-serving hospitality businesses including pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafés should be treated the same when it comes to reopening, believes the LVA.
Pointing to research from Bord Bia showing that more food is consumed in pubs than in full service restaurants or cafes, publicans believe it would be completely discriminatory to allow restaurants or cafés to serve food while pubs were forced to remain shut.
Bord Bia’s 2019 Irish Foodservice Insights Report shows that Ireland’s ‘out of home’ foodservice market consists of 35% Limited Service Restaurants, 18% Hotels and Accommodation, 16% Pubs, 12% Full Service Restaurants, 6% Coffee shops and Cafés, 4% ‘Other Commercial’ and 9% Institutional.
Most Dublin pubs already possess Restaurant Certificates entitling them to trade as licensed restaurants and the LVA believes that this principle must remain in any reopening plan.
With over 7,000 pubs in the Republic of Ireland compared to 2,800 licensed restaurants, pubs serve customers in every village, town and city across the country, states the LVA.
“Pubs that serve food should be allowed to reopen at the same time as restaurants or cafés, with the same public health guidelines in place,’ said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe of the reported phasing of any relaxation of the current Covid-19 lockdown.
The suggestion would also greatly damage the future viability of the pub industry, putting more jobs at risk of being permanently lost and more premises going out of business for good, he added.
“When it comes to foodservice there is no reason why pubs can’t operate in the same manner as other types of establishments such as restaurants, hotels or cafés. Food-serving pubs have dedicated kitchens, can provide table service and can implement the public health guidelines in the provision of food just as well as any other type of venue. The majority of our members hold restaurant certs and accordingly are licensed restaurants. So we would fully expect them to be allowed to reopen,” he continued.
“There can’t be a sense that there is one rule for restaurants and another rule for pubs serving food,” he concluded, “We would question the thinking behind such provisions and we know it’s something that will be fiercely resisted by the entire pub sector in this country. It is the logical first step in re-opening the pub trade and should be quickly followed, assuming it is safe to do so, by all pubs being allowed to trade following the same social distancing guidelines. It’s also essential the Government provides a clear roadmap to normalising the economy for all our sakes.”
The VFI’s Chief Executive Padraig Cribben agreed stating, “The government need to come out immediately with a clear, concise and fair plan that allows our members to start planning for the future. Publicans need clarity on what social distancing will mean for their businesses.
“Publicans are facing a stark future. As a sector we’re already on our knees and this speculation is an absolute kick in the teeth. We are very clear that pubs should open simultaneously with all other hospitality outlets. All sectors will be following the same social distancing guidelines so one outlet should not have a competitive advantage over the other,” he concluded.