Guidelines for reopening wet pubs unveiled

Guidelines for reopening wet pubs unveiled

The document states that pubs will operate with table service only, and no counter service allowed. Stock Picture.

The government’s plan for the future of Irish pubs was distributed to publicans on Sunday morning ahead of the publication of its medium-term plan as to how the country is to "Live with Covid-19".

This radical plan will for the foreseeable future alter the way in which pubs of all kinds, dry and wet, operate in the world of Covid-19.

The Irish Examiner has obtained the 25-page plan and below are the main elements for pub owners and customers to abide by when they re-open in the coming weeks.

Overall, the document puts a strong emphasis on social distancing, with terms like ‘physical distancing’, ‘physical distance’, ‘physical barriers’ mentioned 130 times.

While it had been suggested the pubs could re-open as early as the middle of September, such suggestions have been described as “overly optimistic” by senior government sources.

“We have just seen the schools re-opened. We must allow that to bed in and see the impact on the numbers there first. Any re-opening is more likely to be several weeks away,” said one government source.


Pubs as Controlled Environments:

The plan says that public and private venues or workplaces are considered “controlled environments”.

This includes food and consumption businesses such as restaurants, cafés and pubs and bars.

“Uncontrolled environments are settings where people have open access to the premises and generally don’t know each other and are unlikely to be in close contact with each other for an extended period of time. Examples include supermarkets, retail stores, shopping malls and takeaway-only food outlets,” the document states.


Staff welfare:

Each workplace should appoint at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that Covid-19 measures are strictly adhered to in their workplace.

Hand-washing is a greater protective barrier to infection than wearing disposable gloves. Correct hand hygiene is extremely important, whether using gloves or not, the document states of staff hygiene.


Physical Distancing:

The plan makes clear that a separation of 2 metres between tables is required but this can be reduced to 1 metre if additional steps are taken.

Staff should remain 1 metre apart where possible. No more than 6 people can be located any one table and they must not come from more than 3 different households. This applies to pre-bookings and walk ins. 

“Face coverings must be worn by all employees in customer facing roles, unless there is a protective screen in place,” the document states.


Table Service/Managing Numbers:

  • The document states that pubs will operate with table service only, and no counter service allowed. The amount of seating in a venue must be reduced to ensure adequate spacing.
  • “Tables, seating and couches in public areas and other physical layouts must be rearranged to ensure appropriate distancing,” the document states.
  • The plan will separate out late bars and nightclubs with no customers allowed on the premises after 11:30pm.
  • Face coverings should also be worn by customers when arriving to and leaving their table in the pub.
  • “As part of your business risk assessment, you should determine the requirement for face coverings in all individual business activities. Ensure that customers are clearly informed of your policy in advance of arriving at your property," the document states.
  • Strict queuing systems for toilets and a limit on the number of users must be enforced to ensure physical distancing.
  • All pubs are being asked to develop an ‘action plan’ for reopening.
  • Use of cash is discouraged, with customers asked to use card/contactless payments where possible.
  • Pubs will have to use additional signage to ask customers not to enter if they have symptoms.
  • They will have to regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded. Pubs will have to encourage pre booking as much as possible. A text may be sent to remind the guest to stay away if unwell.
  • Where possible, pubs will have to use floor markings inside the premises to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as tills.
  • Pubs are asked to use vertical signage to direct customers to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance.
  • They will also have to make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly.
  • They will have to place plexiglass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers.
  • Pubs will have to ensure they have adequate hand hygiene and toilet facilities and provide additional pop-up hand hygiene stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser.
  • The pubs will have to establish and supervise a schedule of frequent cleaning of bathrooms and frequently touched surfaces.
  • Customers should be seated at a table except when using the toilet, paying, and departing.
  • Clear signage should indicate the location of and route to the bathrooms, the plans say.
  • Pubs will have to limit the number of servers per group of guests to the smallest number that is practical.
  • There is a limit of on the number of people gathering in a venue at one time – in line with NPHET guidance on indoor gatherings.
  • Multiple gatherings are allowed in venue facilities provided they are in separate ‘defined spaces’ and there are systems to prevent intermingling in common spaces (e.g., entrances, exits and toilet facilities).
  • The plans state that where at all practical, workers should provide services to only one gathering and should not move between multiple gatherings in different venue locations (e.g. two different function rooms).
  • Where possible, facilities such as toilets should not be used simultaneously by multiple gatherings. However, if they are cleaned in between usage, they may be used separately by different gatherings, within the same time period.
  • If possible, identify an area/room on the premises where any customer or employee showing possible COVID-19 symptoms can be isolated from other people. From there, the individual can travel home to seek medical attention elsewhere. It is essential to clean and disinfect this isolation area thoroughly after it has been used.

Industry sources have given the guidelines a cautious welcome.

“The guidelines will result in a major change for non-food pubs. It won’t be easy for these pubs to implement and remain viable. The industry will accept the guidelines if that is what is required to get the non-food pubs open, as they will be closed for a minimum of 6 months,” an industry source told the Irish Examiner.

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