The Government’s confirmation that Ireland’s ‘wet pubs’ can open on September 21 is a welcome announcement but restrictions on punters sitting at pub counters need to be relaxed, that is the assessment of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI ) Galway county chairman, Joe Sheridan.
The Fianna Fáil councillor’s comments come following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning where the decision to open Ireland’s non-food serving pubs was given the green light, subject to strict guidelines on social distancing and hygiene including a ban on counter seating.
Cllr Sheridan said; “It is an opening with restrictive usages. While welcome, I am perplexed why eight weeks ago we couldn’t open when cases were far more reduced [than now]. I see no logical reason why we couldn’t open then. There are systems they are asking for which were in place six to eight weeks [in pubs], ensuring time limits, ensuring pockets [of people are kept together].
“We will be seeking the opening of pub counters. We are able to manage the protocols [at the counter] to protect our customers, friends, families, and neighbours. The counter of a pub is the same as any counter in any retail premises across the board. There is no difference. Unfortunately we have been tethered with data based on Korean nightclubs and European food operations which makes no sense.”
Currently there are 155 pubs in the county which have been closed since March 15 and the Tuam area councillor who owns Walsh’s Bar in Dunmore says the Government needs to provide additional supports to those businesses.
“We have 155 bars in county Galway who have had no income since March 15 and won’t have any until September 21. That is 200 days of lost livelihoods. While every other sector was allowed to open, we were the only sector deemed to be a public health risk even though there was no foundation.
“We need help. [Some] 1,500 direct jobs alone are expected to go. Pubs voluntarily closed. They went above and beyond. If ever an argument to help a sector was to be made, [publicans] need to be helped. Reopening is a small step but we need mighty strides.”
The new draft guidelines for the reopening of ‘wet pubs’ were published on Sunday by Fáilte Ireland and include many of the same systems in place for pubs as are currently followed by restaurants
However, the 105 minute time-limit will be abolished in premises where a distance of two metres between customers from different households can be strictly maintained.