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Editor's Viewpoint

Reopening of NI pubs littered with pitfalls

Editor's Viewpoint


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'The hospitality industry has been at the forefront of the clamour to ease lockdown, and the Executive has surprised some by seemingly bringing forward the timetable for reopening hotels, public houses and restaurants.'

'The hospitality industry has been at the forefront of the clamour to ease lockdown, and the Executive has surprised some by seemingly bringing forward the timetable for reopening hotels, public houses and restaurants.'

'The hospitality industry has been at the forefront of the clamour to ease lockdown, and the Executive has surprised some by seemingly bringing forward the timetable for reopening hotels, public houses and restaurants.'

The hospitality industry has been at the forefront of the clamour to ease lockdown, and the Executive has surprised some by seemingly bringing forward the timetable for reopening hotels, public houses and restaurants.

This is widely appreciated by the sector but, as ever, the devil is in the detail.

Balancing the continuing need to restrict the potential spread of the coronavirus and preventing a second and even deadlier wave of infection while allowing facilities to operate is proving a difficult trick to pull off.

Most of the focus has been on reducing the social distancing from two metres to one.

Retaining the two-metre rule would mean it would not be worth most places reopening because the throughput of customers would be so severely reduced.

But there are other consequences that spring from what at first glance seems to be a sensible proposal.

The suggestion is that public house customers should be limited to 105 minutes of drinking time before being asked to leave.

Leaving aside the argument that asking drinkers to leave after a relatively short period could lead to an argument, an addiction charity has pointed out another problem: restricting drinking time, it argues, may make some binge drink.

They would either have drinks at home before going out or drink faster when they get to the pub, leaving themselves heavily intoxicated.

The consequences could be serious — fights, accidents, assaults or an increase in domestic violence.

In all cases, emergency services, already stretched by the pandemic, would be put under further pressure, something no one would want.

It is clear that the Executive will have to come up with a comprehensive list of guidelines so that publicans, in particular, can plan how to run their business efficiently and safely in the new normal.

Restaurants and hotels would find it easier to restrict patrons’ time in their premises because it is the norm to book in advance and spend roughly one and a half or two hours over dinner and drinks.

Perhaps pubs could insist on the old Second World War order for those in pubs to refrain from treating their friends — essentially buying rounds.

This habit means that all in the company have to drink at the same rate as the fastest drinker. Just buying your own could make it easier to moderate alcohol intake and ease health worries.

Belfast Telegraph