Pubs prepare to reopen today after six months shuttered

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

Feature Image: A happy punter as Castle Inn Cork reopens. Pic: Clare Keogh

Pubs outside of Dublin are preparing to reopen today for the first time in six months.

“Wet pubs” closed in mid-March due to the Covid-19 lockdown and remained shuttered, while those serving food alongside alcohol were permitted to reopen during the summer.

Those reopening now must do so under strict guidelines, which include implementing social distancing, mandatory table service and enhanced cleaning regimes.

Pubs in Dublin must be remained closed as the capital remains under Level Three restrictions of the Government's Living with Covid-19 plan.

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In Cork, John O’Connor of An Spailpín Fānach said it will be a new way of doing business for publicans, adding that we must learn to adapt to a new way of doing things with Covid-19.

“We do what we have to. It’s a new learning curve for the next month or two, new systems, I’m at it 30 years, I had my own system and procedures, but I suppose I have to learn a new way now. For a while anyway.”

He said that his capacity has been reduced from 180 to 65, but he has an upstairs bar that can be used if more space is required.

“I'm lucky, there are three or four snugs in my place, so people can socially distance in there.”

Mr O'Connor said his staff are delighted to be back working. “They want to get back to normal. We will see how it goes, all we can do is our best, we can’t do anymore than that.”

Councillor Danny Collins, who owns the Boston Bar in West Cork, started serving pizzas so he could open two weeks ago but he said he may go back to operating his business as a wet pub.

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“I’m very happy pubs that serve drink can open. It has been a strain for me the past couple of weeks, having to force people to eat, that just want to come in for a couple of relaxing drinks and meet their friends and have a chat.

“Having to tell them they have to have a substantial meal was a bit overboard really. Most of my customers would be elderly and single and bachelors really, and just need a bit of company during the day or the night.”

Happy punters enjoy a pint as Castle Inn Cork reopens. Pic: Clare Keogh.

Waterford

Not all pubs have gone ahead with reopening. With concerns about a spike of Covid-19 cases in Waterford, 103 in the last two weeks, some pubs in the county have decided to remain closed.

Alfie’s On The Hill, a popular Ballybricken pub, will remained closed for the time being.

In a Facebook post to its customers, pub management wrote: “It has now been six months since we closed our doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has always been our best intention to re-open our doors to you all when the timing is right and the safety of our customers and staff can be assured, we currently feel that now is not the time.”

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The post continues: “We will monitor the news and statistics over the next week and hope to open our doors for our customers in the near future. We will be posting updates on this page regarding our plans going forward as soon as we know more.”

Owners of The Vale Pub, M A Heffernan's, said they had decided to remain closed "with a heavy heart" in the interests of the health and safety of staff and customers.

“To all our valued friends and customers, at this stage, both I and the team here at Heffernan’s are absolutely and totally frustrated, angry and tired of being closed for over six months now. We want nothing more than to be back open and serving you, so that we can get some sort of normality into our lives.

“We’ve been watching the situation very carefully and we have to do what’s best for our staff and our customers. For that reason, we are going to watch the local and national situation for at least a week to see how the reopening of ‘wet pubs’ goes. And most importantly to see what impact it has on the public health situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

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Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) chief executive Padraig Cribben said that the general sense from publicans was a feeling of happiness at reopening and meeting old regulars.

A VFI statement read: “The general sense from talking to publicans around the country is they’re happy to be open and meeting old regulars. Publicans are by their nature outgoing people and the pub is more a way of life than a job, so to be closed for so long was very difficult for their mental health.

“For now, our members are getting used to the new normal. Mondays are typically quiet in the pub trade but the novelty of reopening has seen a busy trade in some parts of the country.

“We’ll have to wait until after the weekend to get a proper feel for how customers are responding. Our members have put huge effort into making their pubs safe with proper social distancing and hygiene measures so our hope is the public respond with the confidence to venture out.

“While there is a huge sense of relief amongst publicans to be open after six months, they worry that further closures may occur in the future if, like Dublin, their county moves to Level Three.”

Jobs

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It comes as a leading economist has said that Ireland's drinks and hospitality sector faces severe problems.

A new report has warned that over 100,000 jobs in the industry could be permanently lost by the end of the year.

It claims people under 25 and women will be most affected by the losses.

Anthony Foley, senior lecturer at DCU Business School, carried out the research and issued a warning for the coming year: “Obviously for the rest of the year, there’s not going to be a resurgence in international tourism.

“The worry about next year is that the same problem would arise because a lot of decisions about travel will be made this year for next year.

“Other countries in Europe are more open than we are so arrangements may be made for holidays in those particular countries, so by and large, 2021 doesn’t look great.”

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