The hospitality industry has reacted with fury to reports that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended pubs and restaurants should shut at 5pm over the Christmas period.
It is understood Nphet has recommended the early closure in a letter sent to Government on Thursday evening.
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, described the proposed 5pm curfew as “effectively a hospitality lockdown.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Cummins said the Nphet proposal would leave many businesses in a precarious position and that more financial supports would be necessary for the sector.
Mr Cummins added that the hospitality sector would always adhere to public health advice, but that the recent “mood changes” had been a huge shock to the industry.
“We are not seeing any engagement about how to ‘live with Covid’. We need a plan that is a viable solution for all businesses,” he said.
Michael O’Donovan of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland told the same programme that most pubs operated safely and that the Government needed to trust people. A 5pm curfew would be “devastating” for the industry.
‘Death by thousand cuts’
Dublin restaurant owner Gina Murphy described the proposed curfew as like “death by a thousand cuts.”
She told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne that a 5pm closing time was not viable and that it would be better if the sector was completely shut down and supports put in place.
“It’s just not viable, what are we supposed to do? Does anybody understand our business?”
“My biggest fear is for my staff,” she added. “Their average age is 44. They are not disposable people. It is outrageous that they are being treated like this.”
The Licensed Vintners Association, which represents Dublin publicans, tweeted that Nphet’s proposals were to “completely shut down hospitality without telling me you really want to shut down hospitality”.
Well-known hotelier Paul Gallagher, who runs Buswells Hotel next to the Dáil, said they had already lost €40,000 in business during December.
€40,000 of cancelled bookings so far this month and it’s only the 16th December. Society is restricting itself so this year my business is not being shut due to restrictions but it feels as if we are @BuswellsHotel . @IHFcomms @RAI_ie @Irishtourismind
— Paul Gallagher (@PaulGall186) December 16, 2021
“It’s depressing to see my business collapse for the second year in a row. Not sure how much more of this we can take collectively. Realism is needed,” he said.
Mark O’Brien, the executive director of the Abbey Theatre, tweeted: “We have just managed to reconfigure as an industry to 50 per cent in a highly regulated and safe environment, More change now would be catastrophic, unwarranted.”
Theatre has proven itself a safe environment within all guidelines. To reduce capacity again in the week before Christmas means staff have to, in the space of a week, contact customers again to cancel or try & reaccomodate. A nightmare scenario for all concerned.. #savethearts
— Mark O’Brien (@obrienmark) December 17, 2021
Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry, who has been a persistent critic of Government policy in relation to restrictions described the proposed Nphet restrictions as “bananas”.
He tweeted: “Who runs this country? Look at HPSC data. Bananas. The spread is in households, schools and residential settings. Managed settings – ie play centres bowling alleys cafes bars and restaurants should be encouraged over private homes.”