Publicans are at 'crisis point' due to staffing issues, according to an industry representative.
Many Irish pubs were closed for a year before the recent reopening and lost experienced staff to different sectors.
This problem has been exacerbated by the loss of foreign workers, many of whom worked in the industry while studying in Ireland.
With new protocols, uncertainty over Covid certs, and reopening, the issue has only worsened for pubs across the country.
Noel Anderson, chair of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), told BreakingNews.ie: “I think it’s turning into an even bigger issue than it was, I think it’s genuinely at crisis point, I’ve never seen it as bad.”
Short-staffed pubs are also coming under pressure when a staff member tests positive for Covid or is a close contact.
One example of this occurred last week as the Blue Bar in Skerries, Dublin, was forced to temporarily close when a member of staff tested positive.
In a statement on Facebook, the Blue Bar said: “Unfortunately due to a member of staff testing positive this morning for Covid 19, we have made the tough decision to close. We were short staffed before this, with 2 other staff now also isolating we are unable to provide the quality of service we are known for.
“We are so sorry to everyone who had a table booked for the this week, we were really looking forward to welcoming you back. The staff member who tested positive is not in a front facing role. Anyone who dined with us in the last week has nothing to worry about. We look forward to welcoming you back as soon as we can.”
Mr Anderson is managing director of Lemon & Duke and The Bridge 1859 in Dublin.
He brought new staff in early to get them trained up as quickly as possible, however, “it’s still tight with that because with the new regulations you have to put people front of house and dealing with additional paper work”.
Mr Anderson said he was lucky to retain most of his staff, but the issue for pubs across the country is putting additional strain on the difficulties of reopening in a pandemic.
“It’s turning into a crisis in itself [staffing] to be honest. Everybody’s managing as best they can and thankfully it’s worked well enough for the moment [new guidelines].
“Attracting people back to the industry is tricky, an awful lot of people left. I lost my two head chefs, and thankfully I’ve replaced them with two good people, but not everyone is as lucky.
“A lot of foreign workers that were working in the industry, studying over here, returned home when Covid broke, and they haven’t come back. Hopefully they will in September and that will settle it down a little bit.”
Pubs who serve food are having a lot of difficulty finding replacements after losing chefs and Mr Anderson feels this is a big issue.
“It was really bad before, but it’s hard to express words for how bad it is now.”
Mr Anderson revealed that the vast majority of customers are choosing to sit outside where there is the option to do so.
“Some of the iconic pubs will always have their loyal following, but with the Lemon & Duke outside is still the most popular space, so it stands to reason that pubs without outdoor space will struggle a little bit more. It will be a long road to recovery.
“There’s a genuine shortage of staff that want to work in the industry, it’s really important that people pay their staff well and that pubs and restaurants give all tips to the staff, it’s also important for customers who can afford it to tip where possible.”
He added: “Everyone’s doing their best, the weather holding has helped, the vaccine rollout is giving more confidence.
“It will be interesting to see what the next three months look like, I like to be able to plan ahead and I can’t see what the next three months look like just yet.”
The Government is expected to issue further guidelines on the easing of hospitality restrictions this month and Mr Anderson said the two big issues publicans would like to see addressed are the use of bar counters being allowed and later closing times.
'Heart and soul of the pub'
“I was down in Cork and I was talking to a publican who said, ‘what we really need back is our counter. That’s where our atmosphere and the heart and soul of the pub comes from’.
“That’s our number one ask to Government, followed by closing times.
“The bar counter is the holy grail for publicans, and we’d love to have it back.”