Comments made by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD that pubs could “materially add to the possibility of a second wave”, have led to the LVA asking the Government to develop a plan for protecting the future of the pub industry and it’s 50,000 employees in this country.
Pointing to the singling-out of the pub sector, the LVA said that if the Government wishes the pub sector to survive “then special measures will be needed to safeguard the future of the industry”.
The government’s delaying of these pubs re-opening means that the outlets will have gone for 40% of the year without trading – that’s 147 days or almost five months.
Specifically the LVA has asked the Government to commit to the following measures for the pub sector:
- Significant grant-aid for pubs based on their licence band with a minimum of €20,000 rising to €50,000 for 2020
- Maintaining the Wage Subsidy Scheme for pubs for as long as Social Distancing restrictions apply
- A cut in the VAT rate for on-trade alcohol until the end of the year
- The abolition of commercial rates for 2020.
“It’s clear that the Government is making a special case of the pubs,” commented LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “We’re the only sector still to re-open. We’ve repeatedly been separated from the rest of the economy and from the rest of the hospitality sector.”
He also pointed out that the infection rate is rising while these pubs remain closed.
“Minister Donnelly’s comments are a further indication of the Government’s stance towards pubs,” he continued, “Well, if pubs are going to be singled-out by the Government, then we deserve special treatment. No other industry is being told they can’t return to work. No other business owners or staff are being told they can’t earn a living for 40% of the year.”
The economic consequences of this must be recognised, he added, asking, “What happens if there are further spikes in the infection rate? Will the Government delay the opening of pubs even further? How much more is an industry expected to take?
“We are asking the Government outright, ‘What are your plans for the pub sector?’ We can’t be left in limbo like this.”
He described the present situation as “debilitating” to these businesses and to their employees.
“These issues will continue to arise until they come up with an actual plan,” he concluded, “Otherwise we can expect to see jobs being lost and businesses being closed on an almost daily basis from here on.”
His concerns were echoed by the bar workers union Mandate which called on the Government to give bar workers and bar owners a “fighting chance for survival” by supporting them in the proposals to be announced in the July Stimulus Package.
“Bar workers want to return to work when it is safe to do so for them and their customers,” stated Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, referring to Mandate’s Submission to the Dail Covid Committee Concerning the Hospitality Sector, “The bars which remain closed have been so since St Patrick’s Week and tens of thousands of bar workers have been laid-off, the majority on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. There’s no doubt bar workers and the businesses in which they work have been severely impacted by the health-led lockdown restrictions.
“Mandate Trade Union and our members are concerned for the future employment prospects of bar workers, with some reports estimating that in excess of 20,000 bar workers of the 50,000 workers in the sector could lose their jobs, even if restrictions are eased.
“As Ireland tries to return to some form of normality our social interaction is vital and our bars and bar workers play a big role in this, so for the sake of some normality and for the sake of decent jobs in our sector, the Government must prioritise the Bar Sector with a suite of support measures in their July Stimulus Package.”
Specifically Mandate Trade Union is calling for the following:
- An orderly and safe re-opening of all bars when it is deemed safe to do so by the Health Authorities
- A temporary reduction of the VAT Rate on sales of alcohol in the bar sector until the end of 2020 at which time it can be reviewed
- An extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme until the end of 2020 for all bar workers who are returned to work by their employers on the same terms and conditions as pertained before the lockdown. Again these measures should be reviewed at the end of 2020 as there can be no doubt that the negative impact of the lockdown and opening restrictions will be felt in the bar sector well into 2021
- An extension of the rent freeze and the ban on evictions as a way of protecting workers.
“The bar sector is on its knees and the vast majority of bar owners did the right and responsible thing during this Pandemic,” he concluded, “It’s now vital that this Government does the right thing to support bar workers and the business in which they work.”