Not serving customers at the bar is the price publicans have to pay in order to reopen, according to draft Government plans.
Lobby groups for the 3,000-plus pubs in the country have given a cautious welcome to the 25-page plan, obtained by the, which reveal that so-called wet pubs will have to operate largely on the same lines as those serving food.
The draft guidelines, which were drawn up in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, were circulated to vintners' groups yesterday, and are in line with the guidelines for those pubs serving food, which are already open. Government sources have made it clear that suggestions the pubs will open in the middle of this month were “overly optimistic”.
“We have just seen the schools reopened. We must allow that to bed in and see the impact on the numbers there first. Any reopening is more likely to be several weeks away,” said one Government source.
- Publicans will be required to record the time and date of arrival of customers, and the name and phone number of the lead person in the group for contact tracing purposes;
- Time slots limited to 1 hour and 45 minutes where physical distancing of 1m can be maintained;
- Time slots of 105 minutes are not a requirement where physical distancing of 2m can be "strictly maintained";
- Physical distancing is required between people from different households, but not between those from the same household;
- All pubs will have to close at 11.30pm;
- Groups must be limited to a maximum of six people from no more than three households;
- Employees working behind the bar should maintain a distance of 2m "as far as reasonably possible";
- When using smoking areas, customers must remain seated.
With the sharing of these draft guidelines, the Government has entered into a period of reflection and consultation with pub owners on how to make the rules workable and allow pubs open viably.
Meanwhile, the Government wants to axe the two-week quarantine for those coming from some foreign countries, but particularly the UK.
Several Government sources have pointed to the rapid Covid-19 testing service available at Heathrow Airport for passengers who pay for the privilege.
“A lot of attention is on the Heathrow testing. If a viable model can be found, it would be a huge game-changer — not just for travel within the EU, but especially between here and the UK,” said a Government source yesterday.
There have also been question marks raised about the viability of the so-called green list given the increase in our transmission rate.
“When the green list was introduced, our transmission rate was much lower. The list operated on allowing countries with a rate similar or lower to ours come here. But there is no way we can do that now,” said the source.
Today, the Government is launching details of its €2bn Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme, the biggest ever State-backed loan guarantee in Ireland.
Speaking about the scheme, Leo Varadkar said: “The past few months have been extremely difficult for Irish businesses. We have seen our small and medium enterprises work hard to adapt and to continue trading in the face of this profound disruption.
"The Government is determined to help businesses as they operate in a fundamentally changed trading environment.”