Publicans 'stunned' by ‘hammer blow’ as government announce delay to pub openings

Publicans 'stunned' by ‘hammer blow’ as government announce delay to pub openings
Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking at a post-cabinet press briefing at Dublin Castle yesterday.

Publicans say that they have been left "stunned" after the government decided to delay the opening of pubs which don't serve food until August 10, a move the industry said could cost thousands of jobs.

However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the decisions had been made due to the rise in cases in recent weeks, which he said represented a "very real" threat. 

The government announced it had delayed entering Phase 4 of Ireland's roadmap, with the original date of August 10 now set. Mr Martin said that the government's priority is the opening of schools in September, adding that the global situation around the virus was a worry.

"The R number, which we have all become familiar with has now risen above one in this country. And the international situation with almost a million and a half cases reported in just the last week, represents a growing worry."

Cabinet has also decided that face coverings must be worn indoors in public from this Monday and visits to private homes have been limited to ten people from at most four homes.

Mr Martin denied that the "pause" in reopenings did not mean that the last government had made a mistake in accelerating through the roadmap. 

He said that the document was always "flexible" and said that it was "the right thing to do to pause".

Mr Martin said that while he agreed with the pub industry that the measures would do damage, there was no plan to bring in area-specific plans or exemptions. 

He said that attention had to be paid to "the risk of the spread of infection associated with social gatherings, as well as the evidence of outbreaks from bars and pubs in other countries".

"(There are no plans for regional exemptions) at this stage, but what I would say is that I do I acknowledge that it's a hammer blow for quite a number of publicans across the country. I understand that this is not something we would ordinarily like to be announcing. But I think what has stood the country well from the outset of this pandemic has been adherence to the broad principles of public health advice that has come from NPHET and public health doctors."

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said that the decision would mean that many pubs lost 40% of their trading year. Picture: Getty
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said that the decision would mean that many pubs lost 40% of their trading year. Picture: Getty

Publicans called the decision "a hammer blow", saying that the decision had "stunned" them. The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) says the decision is a "shocking development" that will have huge ramifications for family-run pubs across Ireland. 

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said that the majority of these pubs are rural and their continued closure made no sense.

"The vast majority of these pubs are small rural outlets run by families who are on first-name terms with their customers and far removed from the crowded venues that concern NPHET. As controlled venues we believe these pubs should be allowed open as they are far safer than the likes of uncontrolled house parties and pose little threat to public health."

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said that the decision would mean that many pubs lost 40% of their trading year.

"It does appear that pubs are being singled out. Pubs were first closed and last to reopen. No other part of the domestic economy is still shut. We have continually been placed in the last phase of the reopening roadmap."

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the measures were focused on domestic activity, but added that the total number of cases of Covid-19 associated with flights from America in the last six weeks had been four.

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