Three days is not enough notice for pubs to know if they can reopen their doors on July 5th, according to the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI).
Publicans are calling on the Government to make a decision on the reopening of indoor hospitality this week, saying an announcement made on July 2nd will be too late for businesses attempting to organise staff and supplies.
It comes as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it is “too early” to confirm whether the Government will proceed with the lifting of restrictions, amid concern over a rise in cases of the Delta coronavirus variant.
Mr Donnelly warned “we are now surrounded by the Delta variant”, which is more contagious than other types of the virus and accounts for one in five new cases of coronavirus detected in the last seven days.
The Cabinet is to decide next Thursday, July 1st, whether it will give the green light for the reopening of indoor hospitality, following a meeting with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
The LVA said the expected timeframe for a reopening decision was “not a tolerable position” for the hospitality sector who would need to make decisions about hiring staff, securing supplies and preparing their premises at short notice.
“The Government has to make up its mind and come to a decision this week,” said Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA.
“They can’t reasonably expect the entire hospitality industry to wait until July 2nd for what their decision will be and then be in a position to potentially reopen three days later. This is not practical and it is not how these businesses operate.
“You would think the Government would be aware of this... the hospitality sector deserves more respect than that to have such a massive decision left until the last minute.”
Meanwhile, the VFI said the “50-50” chance of reopening was causing “huge concern and stress to publicans and the 25,000 staff who are planning on returning to work in early July.”
Government indecision on 5th July reopening will devastate pub trade. We need clarity and certainty for members already rehiring staff and stocking up for the big day @CorkVFI @LimerickcityVfi @ThePubsOfKerry https://t.co/Axq2m8DAGJAdvertisement
— VFI (@VFIpubs) June 23, 2021
Padraig Cribben, VFI chief executive, said: “With only two weeks to go it’s not acceptable to treat our members in this manner.
“There are just eight weeks in the summer season for pubs to recoup some of the massive losses accumulated over the past 15 months, so to tell publicans they may lose any of those weeks will devastate the trade.
“The business generated in July and August will sustain most pubs through the winter and into next year so for Government to delay reopening during the summer will impact the sector to a much greater degree than, for instance, a delay in January.”
Mr Cribben said the fact that Government does not intend to announce a reopening decision until late next week “illustrates how detached Ministers are from the realities of running a business.”
“We are also facing the resumption of unrestricted travel to EU countries from 19th July. Is the Government seriously suggesting that people can travel to Spain for a pint while pubs back home remain shut?” he added.
The LVA also accused the Government of “mixed messaging” on the issue, saying different views on reopening had been expressed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister Damien English.
“The Government also needs to stop taking different positions on their messaging as it is creating stress and confusion for everyone,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
“There have been mixed messages coming from the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Health and Minister English over the last 48 hours. It has to stop.
“The tens of thousands of people in hospitality who are awaiting news of whether we will get to provide indoor service from 5th July shouldn’t be left second guessing which member of Cabinet they should believe.
“Consistency of message and approach surely isn’t too much to ask from Government given the enormity of this decision for our sector.”
The LVA said that around 40 per cent of pubs in Ireland are currently unable to provide outdoor service, meaning some have not opened their doors for 464 consecutive days.
Senior public health sources have said the chances of advising to go ahead with reopening plans are "50-50", adding a delay could be helpful in slowing the spread of the virus.