Hospitality organisations have warned that the reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions for the Christmas period is a “hammer blow” to the sector.
A range of restrictions will be in place from December 7th to January 9th, including the closure of nightclubs and strict social distancing requirements for bars and restaurants.
The rules will see the hospitality sector largely revert to the situation before October 22nd, with a maximum of six adults per table and no multiple table bookings.
It comes amid concern about increased socialising at Christmas and the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe TD has announced targeted support for the hospitality sector modelled on the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which operated in the earlier phases of the pandemic.
The scheme will supplement the support the sector is receiving under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).
But Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, president of the Irish Hotels Federation, said this “falls far short” of what is needed.
She said: “It is devastating that the Government has failed to restore employment supports for hotels, despite the collapse in business levels witnessed throughout the country by our sector.
“We are calling on the Government to revisit this decision and urgently restore EWSS supports to November levels.
“The Government’s failure to support our sector is all the more disappointing given the assurance received that we would not face a cliff edge in terms of financial supports, but this is exactly what has happened.”
She added: “The Government can dress this up whatever way it likes – but the reality is that the supports announced come nowhere close to being enough given the extent to which hotel businesses levels have been decimated in recent weeks.
“Now, in addition to widespread cancellations, we face additional restrictions and significantly reduced Government supports. It is nothing short of a hammer blow to our sector.”
Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins called for supports to be increased and backdated to help keep businesses afloat.
He said: “The EWSS scheme must return to 100 per cent level and backdated to December 1st.”
Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) chief executive Donal O’Keeffe said: “This is a real blow to the nightclubs and late bars.
“Practical, effective and affordable solutions now need to be developed.”
Mr Donohoe said: “The Government recognises the severe impact Covid-19 has had for many sectors across our economy, not least the hospitality sector.
“We have not been found wanting from the onset of this terrible disease, and to date, the Government has provided over €48 billion supporting both our economy and society.
“A further deterioration in the public health situation would impact our economic recovery, and as the Government has said consistently throughout this pandemic, there will be no cliff-edge to supports for citizens and businesses. We will keep these supports under review.”
Announcing the restrictions in a national address on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “This is not about going back to the days of lockdowns.
“Across the country, very many people in the hospitality and entertainment industries will be bitterly disappointed by this news.
“Many of them will be fearing for their livelihoods.
“I want to reassure them that, just as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government will stand by them and ensure that they have the financial supports necessary to weather this latest storm and to stay intact until we are out of it.”