But the VFI is urging the Government to bring forward the opening date by just four days to allow their members trade for an extra weekend. The Federation is also calling for the removal of the 105-minute time-limit from the guidelines as by the end of June over 70% of the population will have been offered a vaccine, which is a higher vaccination rate than Northern Ireland achieved when it opened pubs indoors.
“Reopening in time for the traditional Summer season is a big boost to the trade who can now plan with confidence for a busy July and August,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “However there are only nine weekends in that short season so to remove one of those crucial weekends by reopening on a Monday is a blow the Government can avoid by simply moving the date forward by four days to 1st July. It would be a small concession with a big impact.
“In less than two weeks, pubs will reopen outdoors followed four weeks later by a return indoors. In that time we expect the Government will revise the 105-minute time limit for indoors. As the vast majority of the population will be vaccinated by early July the rule will is longer be required.
“In many ways the announcement of a reopening date is only the beginning of the end of the crisis for the pub trade as we face an uncertain future where rebuilding consumer confidence and working within Social Distancing guidelines will be tough challenges. Supports will continue to play a vital role.
“One thing is certain, this has to be the last Lockdown,” he concluded, “The pub trade can never again be shut down in such a manner. The negative consequences of the past 15-months will take years to recover from, even allowing for the resilience of the trade.”
Recovery plan necessary for hospitality sector
The LVA noted that the publication of the National Economic Recovery Plan next week will also be extremely important for the recovery of the hospitality sector.
“The fact is that even in July, after almost 16 months of closure, we will still be operating with significant restrictions which really damage our viability,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “Some elements of the trade, such as late bars, won’t be opening on the 5th July. As the Government is keen to see the hospitality sector recover, then supports will need to remain in place for the remainder of 2021 and beyond. We also welcome the announcement of an outdoor grant scheme for traditional pubs.”