Dublin pubs to stay closed in fourth 'false start' for sector

Drink-only pubs have been closed for 189 days in total. Photo: Niall Carson

Updated: 2.50pm

Dublin’s pubs will not be allowed to reopen next week as planned due to rising coronavirus cases in the city.

The move to delay the September 21st reopening for drink-only pubs in the capital was signed off by the Cabinet on Tuesday morning as the Government delivered its new Living with Covid-19 five-level plan.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Monday said the “worrying” increase in coronavirus infections in Dublin would require additional restrictions and a “different response” than in the rest of the country.

In response to the decision, an industry group said pubs in Dublin have been treated unfairly and disproportionately in "yet another false start" for publicans.

This is now the fourth time new product has been brewed and delivered in kegs to Dublin pubs, to then not be used. It is also the fourth time drinks suppliers have worked with pubs in Dublin to clean beer lines ahead of a reopening.

Drinks Ireland, which represents Ireland’s drinks suppliers, said "wet pubs" in Dublin should be treated "exactly the same as every other part of the hospitality sector, which has been allowed to open and remain open" as new restrictions are introduced in Dublin.

Director of Drinks Ireland Patricia Callan said: “This is now the fourth time that pubs in Dublin that do not serve food have been told they could reopen, to then be told, at very short notice, that they no longer can.

"It is completely disproportionate and unfair for these pubs to be treated as political scapegoats, and differently to the rest of the hospitality sector. Dublin pubs that serve food have reopened, safely.

“This continued closure impacts not only pubs, but also drinks suppliers. Beer and cider in particular cannot be kept in storage for lengthy periods as both will go off. This is now the fourth time new product has been brewed and delivered in kegs to Dublin pubs, to then not be used. It is also the fourth time drinks suppliers have worked with pubs in Dublin to clean beer lines ahead of a reopening."

'Unmitigated disaster'

Ahead of the decision, a representative body for the pub trade said a further delay in reopening in the city would be “an unmitigated disaster” for the sector, pushing some publicans into default on debts.

Licensed Vintners’ Association chief executive Donall O’Keeffe told The Irish Times it would be “unbelievable” for the reopening of drink-only pubs to be further delayed past September 21st.

He had called on the Cabinet to stand by that date: “NPHET [the National Public Health Emergency Team] should focus on where the infections are."

“These pubs have not contributed to that worrying trend of rising infections. That has happened in homes, in the community and in other workplaces because the pubs will have been closed for 189 days by September 21st,” he said.

“All hospitality businesses should face the same public health guidelines. There have been 3,500 food pubs open since June 29th without any problems. What is NPHET’s obsession with wet pubs?”

The latest figures show that the incidence of Covid-19 in two areas of Dublin has risen above 100 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since the spring.

A total of 1,068 coronavirus cases were notified in Dublin over the two-week period up to last Friday.