The vast majority of publicans want to be allowed to reopen like the North where all hospitality outlets will open together this week without any division between food and non-food pubs or the requirement for a substantial meal, a new survey reveals.
Ninety per cent of publicans want to reopen “like the North,” according to the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) survey.
The VFI has called for outdoor trading to resume on May 28th before allowing pubs to reopen fully on June 18th.
The VFI says the upcoming Government announcement about reopening hospitality must include a coherent plan that provides confidence for its members and the 50,000 staff employed by pubs.
This coming Friday pubs in Northern Ireland will reopen for outdoor trading then three weeks later they can resume indoor business.
Our message is clear, the hospitality sector must reopen together.
While the North's reopening strategy is viewed as the best way forward there is “huge concern amongst publicans, particularly in border areas, that customers will flock north when beer gardens open this week while currently there is no date for opening pubs in the Republic”.
The survey findings are published as the Government prepares to reveal its reopening plan for the hospitality sector this coming Thursday.
VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “The survey of VFI members reveals an overwhelming demand for the Government to follow the Northern Ireland reopening strategy. Given the North is planning to fully reopen its pubs and hospitality sector in May it would be crazy to have two different systems in place on the island.
“Similar to the reopening plan in England, the North has abolished the much-derided €9 meal and all hospitality outlets will reopen together. Even Simon Harris, who was Minister for Health when the substantial meal provision was introduced, has called for it to be abolished and for traditional pubs to reopen alongside food outlets.
“The clear message from the survey is that publicans want to be treated equally with their hotel and restaurants colleagues. Government cannot split the sector like they did last year when traditional pubs were forced to remain closed while food outlets reopened. Our members are worried by media reports referring to ‘outside dining’ and reopening dates for hotels and B&Bs without any mention of pubs. Our message is clear, the hospitality sector must reopen together.”
Mr Cribben added: “It’s generally agreed our vaccination programme is four weeks behind the North’s. If we follow a similar reopening plan this would mean outdoor trading could resume on May 28th while indoors could restart on June 18th. Our rate of vaccinations is improving, we now have 95 per cent of over 70s vaccinated and these numbers will only increase over May. The Government reopening strategy must acknowledge these facts.”
Meanwhile, Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the Government risk being left behind by the public if they deny outdoor hospitality service resuming next month.
All pubs and licensed premises are legally permitted to offer takeaway service and LVA members are already reporting “overwhelming” demand for this service from the public.
Based on industry feedback, the LVA believes that most pubs will begin providing takeaway to meet that demand if they are not allowed to reopen for outdoor service by the end of May.
“The Government risks being left behind by the public if they do not permit outdoor service to resume for all hospitality next month,” said Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA. “The levels of outdoor socialising are going to rise either way in the coming weeks as the weather gets milder and the public health situation improves. Really the choice is whether to have increased levels of outdoor socialising take place in the controlled settings provided by hospitality or leave it unfettered and uncontrolled in public spaces, without any facilities.”