New Covid-19 guidelines give restaurants 'a fighting chance, restaurants body says

Chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI), Adrian Cummins said the guidelines coming so late in the day had hampered preparations, but that businesses are "up for the challenge".
New Covid-19 guidelines give restaurants 'a fighting chance, restaurants body says
A distance of two metres and a minimum of one metre should be maintained between employees. Where two metres is not possible, all other measures to protect employees should be in place, Fáilte Ireland added.
A distance of two metres and a minimum of one metre should be maintained between employees. Where two metres is not possible, all other measures to protect employees should be in place, Fáilte Ireland added.

Fáilte Ireland's new guidelines for restaurants to re-open give a "fighting chance" for businesses to save themselves, an industry body has said.

Chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI), Adrian Cummins said the guidelines coming so late in the day had hampered preparations, but that businesses are "up for the challenge".

The new guidelines are not a consolation prize to replace the urgent need for governmental measures to stimulate the ailing industry, he added.

Fáilte Ireland said it has developed operational guidelines in line with the HSE and health chiefs, and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

Physical distancing of two metres should be maintained, the tourism body said - however if this is not possible, this can be reduced to one metre in controlled environments if certain risk mitigation requirements have been met.

As far as reasonably possible, a distance of two metres and a minimum of one metre should be maintained between employees. Where two metres is not possible, all other measures to protect employees should be in place, Fáilte Ireland added.

Mr Cummins said: "The Fáilte Ireland reopening guidelines, while they are not perfect... at least the reduction from two-metre to one-metre will have a huge effect on restaurants and give them a fighting chance of reopening.

"The issuing of the guidelines so late isn’t easy on businesses but we are up for the challenge. What we need now is a sector-specific package for restaurants, specifically around continuation of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and the inclusion of seasonal workers on the scheme."

A Vat reduction, plus grant aid for businesses that pays legacy debt, is also a matter of urgency, Mr Cummins said.

The RAI has warned that up to 50% of restaurants in Ireland face closure unless an Emergency Grant Aid Package is issued.

Economist Jim Power, who prepared a report on the industry for the RAI, said the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated already lingering difficulties for restaurants, including Brexit uncertainty, sterling weakness and a drop in UK visitors, labour shortages, and the decision to increase the Vat rate from 9% to 13.5% in Budget 2019.

In his report, he said: "Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on the restaurant sector. Most businesses are either closed fully or offering a very limited takeaway service.

"Cashflow has effectively ground to a trickle and fixed costs persist in many cases. Without aggressive and effective official policy supports, many of these businesses will be forced into bankruptcy."

Estimates from the sector suggest that between 80% and 90% of restaurants could not operate with the strict social distancing measures for up to 24 months without a financial stimulus, Mr Power said.

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