Extended closure could be ‘death of rural pubs’, say vintners

The Government have been accused of 'putting their two fingers up' to publicans after deciding to delay phase four of the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Extended closure could be ‘death of rural pubs’, say vintners
Danny Collins, landlord of the Boston Bar, has accused the Government of making 'nanny State' decision. Picture: Andy Gibson

Thousands of publicans are “reeling” after the Government again delayed the reopening of pubs for another three weeks at least, with some warning the move could be the “death of rural pubs”.

The Government confirmed this evening that pubs must remain closed until August 31, when plans to move to phase four of the Government's reopening plans will again be considered. 

Nightclubs and casinos must also remain closed until the end of the month.

The move follows advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team following a rise in Covid-19 cases in the past week.

The latest postponement represents a second false start for thousands of publicans, who were due to reopen initially on July 20, and then August 10, and are now heading into their sixth month of being closed.

Bantry publican Danny Collins said thousands of publicans were left “reeling” by the Government’s “nanny State” decision to prevent pubs from reopening when so many other businesses were allowed to trade.

The owner of the Boston Bar said he had hoped pubs could reopen next week, and was “shocked” and “in despair” by the decision.

He lashed out at the Government and Taoiseach Micheál Martin for failing to support vintners, who had already been hit by the smoking ban and drink-driving laws.

“Basically what they’re saying is that publicans aren’t capable of running a business like every other business that is open at the moment,” an irate Mr Collins said. 

That’s what they’re saying to us and putting their two fingers up to us.

Rural publicans, he said, needed “a break”, and pubs should be allowed to reopen in areas where Covid-19 numbers are low, particularly in rural areas.

“There should be regional breaks in areas with no cases or low numbers,” he said. "There have been no cases in Kerry and a low number in Co Cork in July. So give us a break.

“You have 15 to 20 cases per day in Dublin, so lockdown them down for a while — but down here in rural parts of Ireland, like Bantry, Schull, and Castleownbere, seeing pubs closed there ... it’s going to be the death of them,” he added.

The Government, Mr Collins said, will have to come up with a “better package” and additional support for the sector, given the extended closure, as well as new regulations and a roadmap for reopening.

“Give us the regulations,” he said. "Let us try to work with them. If we aren’t working with them, let the gardaí close us down. That’s all we have wanted all along."

The incoming president of the Vinters Federation of Ireland (VFI), Paul Moynihan, a rural publican based in West Wicklow, described the uncertain situation facing 3,500 publicans as a “nightmare”.

“There has to be a pathway,” he said. 

If it is going to be another three weeks or more, just tell us and be fair about it and give us the guidelines so that we can prepare to reopen. We cannot do that at the moment.

Mr Moynihan said the Government had not given the sector a chance to operate like other businesses. He said the decision to keep pubs closed was “a hit on rural Ireland”, and that additional financial support will be needed.

“If you think about it, they haven’t even given us a chance to prove that we could do it right,” Mr Moynihan said. "They just made a decision that an industry wasn’t worth helping. Financial help will be needed now.

“We need special help here and we’re going to look hard for special help from the Government. 

"If they decide that we can’t open, they are stopping us making our livelihoods, so they’re going to have to help us out.” 

Pubs serving food, he said, had successfully shown that they could operate safely, but thousands of other pubs not serving food had not been given a chance or any guidance.

It was too early, he added, to say how many pubs will not reopen their doors because of the extended closure.

“The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to get going again — and the uncertainty isn’t helping,” he said.

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