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Pubs propose ‘radical changes’ to secure earlier opening date in recovery plan

Organisations representing the trade insist bars should be able to open at the same time as cafes and restaurants.

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The Quays Bar in Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

The Quays Bar in Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

The Quays Bar in Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

Pubs in Ireland have urged the Government to allow them to open earlier in the country’s phased recovery plan after presenting a range of social distancing proposals.

Bars are currently scheduled to open in the fifth and final phase of the blueprint, on August 10.

Cafes and restaurants are set to start welcoming back customers in the third phase, on June 29.

The Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) and the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) want pubs to open at the same time as cafes and restaurants.

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The popular Temple Bar district in Dublin has been almost deserted since the outbreak took hold in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

The popular Temple Bar district in Dublin has been almost deserted since the outbreak took hold in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

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The popular Temple Bar district in Dublin has been almost deserted since the outbreak took hold in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

Many pubs in Ireland closed their doors at the outset of the coronavirus emergency, before even being instructed to by the Government, amid concerns over social distancing.

The representative groups have written to the Government accepting an invitation to discuss the road map.

They said they have put forward “radical changes” to the normal operations of bars in order to protect public health.

The organisations’ proposed measures include:

– Bars will become dispense bars only, with no sitting, standing, ordering, payment or drinking at the bar allowed.

– Table service will be a requirement, with pubs only serving customers seated at tables.

– The numbers on the premises would be confined to no more than four per every 10 square metres.

– A maximum of six people would be permitted at any one table.

– Customers will be required to use hand sanitiser upon entry.

– All customers must remain seated.

– Staff will be fully trained in the new procedures. They will also be asked to maintain a safe distance from customers when taking orders and to wash their hands thoroughly every 30 minutes.

– The utilisation of outdoor spaces to enhance social distancing.

– Procedures implemented to ensure safe use of toilet facilities, which may include limits on the numbers using toilets at any one time.

– No live music or DJs.

– Gardai/HSE will have the power to close any business which is flouting the public health guidelines.

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said: “We fully respect the need to continue to protect the public health.

“We have repeatedly proven this commitment, not least in the fact that our sector was the first to close across the country.

“We also believe that if other venues who serve food and alcohol are allowed to reopen in phase three, then pubs should be granted the same opportunity to trade.

“We don’t believe it is in any way appropriate that the Government should apply one rule for some hospitality businesses and another rule for others.

“We are making a series of radical proposals to how bars should operate for the reopening scenario.

“Trading will be extremely difficult under these circumstances. There is no doubt that the pub experience as we know it will have to change dramatically.

“Many pubs may choose not to reopen as it simply won’t be financially viable under these conditions.

“However, for those who want to trade, these measures will have the essential impact of protecting the health and wellbeing of staff and customers alike.”

The public health restrictions will present real challenges to all hospitality venues, it doesn’t matter if they are a pub, a restaurant, a cafe or a hotelPadraig Cribben, VFI

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the VFI, said the groups hoped to meet Health Minister Simon Harris and Business Minister Heather Humphreys this week.

“We have now written to the Government to ensure this meeting happens at the earliest possible opportunity,” he added.

“What is clear is that the current road map plan isn’t tenable and will lead to confusion in the hospitality sector if it is not addressed.

“The public health restrictions will present real challenges to all hospitality venues, it doesn’t matter if they are a pub, a restaurant, a cafe or a hotel. There is no denying that and there is no getting around it.

“Addressing those public health requirements will be necessary for all hospitality businesses whenever they reopen.

“Pubs across Ireland are up to that challenge and will do what is required for maintaining a safe and healthy place of business.”

PA