Pubs and restaurants will not be able to trade as normal once the six-week lockdown is over in the run up to Christmas as the country will remain at least level 3 until the New Year.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has confirmed bars and restaurants will remain at level 3 until the end of year and, therefore, will not be able to re-open fully in time for Christmas.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Donohoe said that even if a move to level 3 before Christmas, it will still create many challenges for the hospitality sector.
In what will be a devastating blow for thousands of businesses across the country, Mr Donohoe’s comments make clear there is little or no chance of returning to a level 2 or even level 1 in time for Christmas.
“In relation to level 3, that is what we are working to get to, but it is the case that we move to level 3 it will still create many challenges for those in our hospitality sector. But that is why we brought into VAT rate of 9% and it's why will maintain the EWSS up to the 31st of March,” he said.
At the same press conference, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath confirmed that the Cabinet approved the introduction of a system of graduated fines which will be announced later.
Defending the move, Mr McGrath said the motivation for their introduction of fines is to ensure greater compliance with the restrictions.
“And in relation to the issue of fines, I think the vast majority of the Irish public has been really compliant, but it does annoy them greatly when they see small minority of people flagrantly breaching the guidelines and rules,” he said.
“I think the vast majority of people want to see that there is a consequence for that, and they want to see that there is enforcement. The reckless behaviour of a minority can mean in extended restrictions for everybody. And so I think that's why this is a proportionate move and is the right thing to do,” he said.
Mr McGrath said it's only part of the overall mix of measures.
“The overall message is that we need people to buy into this in its totality, the state is quite rightly, providing an enormous amount of public resources to help our country get through this period. It can't be sustained indefinitely. And so we need the support and the by the public to bring them bring us on to a point where these restrictions are no longer needed,” he said.
Earlier, Restaurants Association of Ireland CEO, Adrian Cummins, said 30% of a pub's income is made during the Christmas period, and that the loss of this revenue would mean "game over" for many pubs.
He said: "If we don’t have an opportunity to trade during December and that 30% of income doesn’t come in to our business, it’s game over for at least 50% of the business we represent.
"It's that serious."
Mr Cummins added: “At level 3 restrictions, only 20% of restaurants will open with outdoor dining capacity.
“That means 80% won’t open at all. That puts them in a very precarious position."