Some two-thirds of Dublin pubs will reopen their doors in the coming days, but just 40% of pubs in the rest of the country will start serving this week.
Industry representatives have warned publicans to be mindful of their responsibilities in enforcing public health guidelines, adding that failing to do so could jeopardize their chances of renewing their licences later this year.
Under revised government guidelines, pubs which serve food can reopen today once they are also serving meals costing at least €9.
Strict guidelines on capacity and social distancing are also in place, while diners will only be allowed to remain in the pub for 105 minutes.
Those which do not serve food will be permitted from July 20. It has been 105 days since pubs were told to close.
Despite this, the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents pubs outside Dublin, said most of its members will not reopen until July 20 at the earliest.
"More than 60% of our members will remain closed until phase four in three weeks’ time," said Padraig Cribben, VFI chief executive.
"There will be huge scrutiny of the pub trade in the interim. Publicans and their customers are now on a steep learning curve where mutual respect will be crucial."
Just one-fifth of people say they are comfortable going to a pub with one metre social distancing, according to a CSO study published in recent days.
Mr Cribben warned members to be aware of their responsibilities in terms of public health in the context of 'pent up public demand'.
"While the introduction of the one-metre distancing rule will make a substantial difference to our members’ ability to trade, there remains many challenges within the guidelines for publicans to surmount.
"The 105-minute ‘sitting time’ is a directive our members must implement but when it comes to policing the rule they are left to their own devices," Mr Cribben said.
"What’s very clear at this early stage is that publicans, staff and customers will have to work together to make the reopening a success.
"Technically, the guidelines are not law but the HSA has the power to close premises while any publican flouting the guidelines could encounter difficulties when it comes to renewing their pub licence in September."
Meanwhile, the Licenced Vintners Association (LVA), which represents pubs in Dublin, said the reopening is a 'milestone moment' in the country's recovery.
LVA estimates 450 pubs - around two-thirds of those in the capital - will reopen in the coming days. Donall O'Keeffe, LVA chief executive, said many pubs are reporting "a significant level of customer bookings".
"With the public health situation improving, the reopening of pubs will be an indicator of Ireland’s emergence from the lockdown.
"It will signal to the outside world that our country is beginning the journey back to normality and our economy is once again open for business," Mr O'Keeffe said.
"It is of the utmost importance that any pubs that are reopening this week ensure they are closely following the guidelines.
"We need to show that not only are the pubs open again, but that they will provide a safe and comfortable environment."
The Shelbourne Bar
The Shelbourne Bar has been at the heart of MacCurtain Street’s renaissance as one of Cork’s most exciting destination-streets in the last two or three years. And its owner since 1996, Philip Gillivan, who is ready to reopen the business today (Mon), is centrally involved again in what it’s hoped will be another renaissance.
Mr Gillivan is one of several business owners in the area who have been working with planning consultants to devise a detailed street-dining and mini-food market proposal for the street.
It requires the removal of some on-street parking to make way for dining tables, and the relocation of bus stops and some loading bays. It’s hoped the proposal, if approved, will benefit not just the street, but the city in general.
It’s being assessed by Cork City Council and while a decision is awaited, Mr Gillivan and his staff of 10, who have been trained in a raft of new health and safety protocols, are ready to get back to business on Monday.
But things will be different as everyone gets used to the ‘new normal’ over the coming weeks, Mr Gillivan said.
The bar will open at 4pm daily for the next few weeks, with capacity for 40 customers at a time. Social distancing means no more bar service at the pub’s signature island bar. Tables must be booked in advance and food will be available as usual from The Fish Wife and Novecento across the road until 10pm.
“We will have to be extra responsible and careful. We will be very cautious for the first week but I think we will get into the rhythm of things after a few days. There is a long road ahead of us all in this industry and we will be taking it on a week-by-week basis,” Mr Gillivan said.
Now, with the Everyman closed, the overseas tourism market virtually wiped out and social distancing reducing the venue’s capacity by 60%, Mr Gillivan is acutely aware of the challenges ahead.
“My wife is a nurse in St Stephen’s psychiatric hospital and as the pandemic wore on, I saw the pressure they were under to try and keep the virus out of the hospital.
“So I’ve seen both sides of this. And here we are, three months later. It’s just been unprecedented. But everyone’s been in it.
“It’s back to good old-fashioned customer service, looking after the customer. And that’s what we plan to do,” he said.