The decision by the Government to delay the reopening of pubs in Ireland for another three weeks has been described by the Galway chairman of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI ), Cllr Joe Sheridan, as "gut-wrenching".
Pubs were due to reopen next Monday under Phase 4 of the Roadmap for reopening Ireland, however, the Government took the decision on Tuesday to postpone the move until August 31 after an increase in confirmed cases of Covid-19 over the past three weeks.
The Tuam-area councillor says the measure not to progress into Phase 4 will have dire consequences for many publicans in rural Ireland.
He said; "This [decision] is gut-wrenching for 3,500 families in rural Ireland. A number of these families no longer have their livelihood. I have had grown men and women crying down the phone to me due to the mental strain and pressure of having no income to pay bills or mortgages."
Cllr Sheridan, who owns Walsh's Bar in Dunmore, believes pubs are being unfairly singled out by Government policy and that there is a disconnect between those taking decisions and those affected by them.
"I am for good, logical, public health outcomes. The pubs of Ireland voluntary closed their doors before anyone told us because of our civic responsibility and for the common good,” he says.
“We are well capable to put safety protocols in place.”
Public health officials have made publicans the whipping boy of good public health PR, says Cllr Sheridan.
"Remember most rural pubs have a small number of patrons who are friends and family, so to say we aren't able or responsible enough to implement these protocols is lunacy.
"There is a lot of finger-pointing [at the pub and restaurant industry]. There are a number of shebeens and house parties in the county. I don't blame the young people. It is the responsibility of civic society to do what is right and the officialdoms have failed and continue to fail [in this area]. Is it safer to have a regulated area [such as a pub] or a house party of 50 people? It is governance gone mad.
"There are people in boardrooms that do not understand what is going on on the ground. We have [businesses] who are circumventing the rules, bars opening as pretend pizzerias, this is not a good outcome. If you bring in regulation that is unpoliceable, it is tantamount to idiocy [and] it is void.
"Publicans are looking for equality of opening and if [a publican] steps out of line with regards to regulations, the HSE and Government should come down on them like a ton of bricks. That has been our stance since day one."
Restaurants and pubs which are operating under food licences also received a blow from Tuesday's announcement, with the measures stating that restaurants must close by 11pm with all customers having vacated the premises.
Proprietor of Cava Bodega, JP McMahon said the new measure was frustrating for restaurateurs and could signal the end for some restaurants.
Mr McMahon said; "The decision is counterintuitive. It goes against everything we doing to try to survive. Most people eat around 7pm to 10pm; that is the habit in Ireland. Fifty per cent of your business on a Friday and Saturday night could come after 9.30pm, so this decision [to close restaurants at 11pm] doesn't make sense.
"Customers who come in at 9.30pm won't get their one hour and 45 minutes so they are not going to want to eat then. The Government don't seem to realise this. They don't seem want to talk to anyone in the industry. This [decision] is just another nail in the coffin for restaurants."
"The Government is doing nothing [in terms of businesses' rents]. Business owners loans will start again in September. We have had to remove 30 to 40 per cent of seats [to facilitate Government regulations] so we have lost income, however, banks or landlords [whose tenants are businesses] don't seem to be affected whatsoever. It is just another hurdle for us to overcome."
Hotel open for business
Flannery's Hotel released a statement rubbishing reports that there had been an outbreak of Covid-19 among its workers and it had been forced to close.
Taking to its Facebook and Twitter accounts on Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for the hotel situated on the Old Dublin Road stated; "Contrary to recent fake news, Flannery’s Hotel Galway is open, has been open, and will remain open.
"There has been no outbreak of Covid-19 and all our hardworking staff are safe. We look forward to seeing you all soon. Have a great day."
The statement comes after mounting speculation on social media that a staff member had contracted the virus.