There is “mass confusion” among publicans and nightclub owners following the Government's latest announcement on Covid restrictions, according to Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) chair Noel Anderson.
While nightclubs can reopen on Friday, there will be strict rules.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “What traditionally happens in a nightclub will continue to happen in the nightclub."
However, there is confusion as table service has been kept for hospitality, but there are no specific guidelines for nightclubs yet.
People going to nightclubs will have to wear face masks except when eating, drinking and dancing, according to the Taoiseach.
Mr Anderson told BreakingNews.ie: “There seems to be no joint thinking, for a nightclub to work you need to be able to have access to the bar counter because a nightclub generally doesn't have that much furniture. It won't be feasible for a lot of them to reopen and there's a kind of lunacy where a band in a nightclub wouldn't be allowed, but you could put on their track on a background system and people would be able to get up and dance to it.”
He also said the restrictions are a blow to pubs who had been banking on the use of the bar counter.
“There's mass confusion with what's going on here, everyone's in a state of shock that you can't sit at a bar counter in your local pub and read a newspaper, but you can go into a nightclub and dance on the dance floor.”
Mr Anderson added: “There's an awful lot of frustration out there at the moment, there's going to be millions lost in hospitality turnover in the next couple of months because of this decision.”
He said he had been having difficult conversations with customers after “cancelling a tremendous amount of bookings between now and Christmas and having to pivot back to smaller bookings”.
Mr Anderson, who is managing director of Lemon & Duke and The Bridge 1859 in Dublin, said: “Some people are trying to pit pubs against nightclubs but we represent them both, with my pub hat on, if you're a publican down the country with a small pub you're thinking 'I can't have someone sit up at my counter fully vaccinated, and I'm wearing a mask, yet they can go into a nightclub that evening' it's madness for them. The nightclub owners will be saying 'my business doesn't work if I can't have use of my bar counter'. It's just incredibly frustrating.”
He said table service is “not feasible” for nightclubs.
“Nightclubs are not designed or set up for table service. There's not that many tables in a nightclub, and they don't have the staff to do that. Nightclubs are a very small window model where you have a few hours to make your money, staff is high energy, low wage percentage generally because your costs are high, that's how they work. It's just very, very frustrating.”
There is also confusion over whether pubs with late licences will be allowed to use the bar counter.
“Lemon & Duke has a late night bar, so I'm now looking at the guidelines going 'what am I going to do here?' Nightclubs don't technically 'open' so what defines the difference between a late night bar and a nightclub? Because I carry a public music singing and dancing licence does that mean because I carry them can I use the bar? It's mad.”
While nightclub owners have been promised additional guidance, Mr Anderson feels this should already have been done.
“There are no guidelines issued whatsoever, so they're literally going in blind with no idea what to do. Everyone is scrambling calling each other saying 'what are you going to do?' We're just trying to catch our breath here, but we're in a state of shock with the Government that this is what's happening and this is how we're being treated again.”
Mr Anderson called on the Government to reconsider the use of bar counters as the “absolute minimum”.
“There's no plan, we're told this is it until at least February. It's a big shock to the system and a very big financial pill to swallow as well.
“The minimum they have to do here is get the bar counters back, the absolute minimum. If everybody is vaccinated and everyone has their pass, bar staff are wearing masks, what's the issue? That one reasonable concession.”