Publicans say reopening just for the Christmas period is not sustainable

Róisín Cullen

The Vitners Federation of Ireland (VFI), the trade organisation for pubs outside of the capital, believes that reopening pubs for Christmas to close again in January, would not be sustainable.

The Irish Times recently reported that Ireland had the longest lockdown for pubs in Europe. The VFI’s #AllIWant4Christmas campaign allowed those who work in pubs to talk about the impact that lockdown measures have had on their lives.

A series of videos made by pubs around the country showed the range of people that rely on working in pubs. From students who are now unable to start a Master’s degree to head chefs dressed in construction worker gear.

Brian Foley, Communications & Public Affairs Manager of the VFI, explained that the idea of the campaign was “to focus on pub staff and their need to get back to work. Over 50,000 people who normally work in the pub trade are currently unemployed due to the enforced closure of pubs.

“These people all have families and dependents to support. As we approach Christmas the need to get back to work is particularly acute.” Foley highlighted the fact that the government has yet to make a statement on the reopening of pubs.

“These people are left in awful limbo. #AllIWant4Christmas is a reminder that real people are being impacted by Government decisions, we need clarity to open.”

“There is no point in reopening pubs in two weeks before Christmas and then shutting them down again. Let pubs open in a safe, controlled environment as laid out in the guidelines”, finished Foley.

Pub owners across the country turned their Christmas lights on at 5pm last Friday, as part of a campaign highlighting their readiness for a safe reopening.

Michael Coyne is the owner of Coyne’s Gastropub in Connemara. Coyne like owners around the country believes that the safety of customers is paramount. “Safety was the priority” from the time Coyne first heard about Covid19.

From January, hand sanitiser was provided on bar counters and reduced seating was introduced. “My staff were excellent, they took a lead” said Coyne, when explaining the PowerPoint presentations, cleaning and tracking that took place behind the scenes before their initial reopening in July. The pub achieved the Fáilte Ireland Covid-19 safety charter.

Coyne like many publicans around the country, introduced temperature checks and refused to admit people who had travelled abroad without adhering to quarantine guidelines. A call for staycations from the government was organised to help the country’s economy recover after the first lockdown.

Coyne thanked customers who went on a staycation to the West of Ireland saying, “they saved us. I can’t stress that enough.”

Footage on social media of crowds gathering on South William Street was met by anger by members of the public and local publicans alike. A proposed ban on take-away drinks was later shelved. Ministers in cabinet rejected the plan that Labour Leader Alan Kelly described as “over the top.”

A similar proposal in the UK was also overturned when pub owners lamented the fact that “thousands of gallons of beer [would be] poured down drains.”

The VFI explained the laws that surround takeaway alcohol to The College View. “All pubs are also off licenses. They have a legal right to serve alcohol to be ‘taken away’ from the premises as long as that alcohol is consumed 100 metres from the pub. Once people purchase the alcohol they must abide by whatever local by laws are in place.”

Recent events, have called the future of the Irish pub into question. Coyne hopes for the industry to adapt to changes in society, as “pubs were closing before this.”

“I hope the Government support the Pub Sector by reducing excise on  alcohol and help people fall in love with their local Irish Pub which for so many years been part and parcel of Irish life,” he finished.

Róisín Cullen 

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