Restaurants and pubs that serve food need grant-aid to help them prepare for a summer of outdoor dining.
The call came from Adrian Cummins, the CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, who also said the State must devise a co-ordinated and streamlined system for the sector to engage with local authorities, with minimal red-tape, so that businesses can set up outdoor dining spaces quickly and efficiently.
“Our industry has been economically flattened since last March,” Mr Cummins said.
“Our businesses have burnt through cash to try and keep their business afloat so they don’t have any liquidity at the moment.
Local Authority Councilors have contacted the Restaurants Association of Ireland @RAI_ie with wonderful & innovative solutions to help Tourism & Hospitality businesses regarding outdoor dining this Summer— Adrian Cummins 🇮🇪🇪🇺 (@adriancummins) March 3, 2021
A collaborative approach by the public & private sector is so important
“We are saying very clearly to government that you need to provide grant aid to cover the outdoor facilities.”
He told Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One that it costs about €1,000 to provide a single outdoor seat, given the costs associated with protecting these outdoor dining spaces from the elements, with some large canopies that can cover 15-seats costing up to €10,000.
While Fáilte Ireland is working on a grant scheme to support an element of outdoor dining, Mr Cummins said government needs to listen to the sector.
Restaurateur Claire Nash of Nash19 in Cork, was among those who pioneered the Eat on the Street initiative on the city’s Princes St last year. It made headlines around the world as a perfect example of how society must adapt to Covid-19.
She has now launched a recruitment drive for waiting staff, a sous chef, a grill chef, barista and a sommelier, as she plans for a mid-May reopening, pending public health guidance.
“Last year, with all of the closing down and reopening, we couldn’t play with a full deck, and we did what we did to just get through the year,” she said.
"We have been closed completely since December 24 but we need to put the profession back on its feet.
“I’m treating this like a new business. Nash19 has been around for a long time, and has had many faces and guises but the most exciting one is the challenge of outdoor dining, the ‘eat on the street’ offer.
“We’ll have between 24 to 30 outside seats, so it will effectively be like another restaurant outside the door.
“I think it will take about three weeks to a month of training. I want to bring on a new team that loves the industry, an exciting team that wants to get into work they love.
“I want to hire those with passion and qualifications, or those with passion and ready for training, to build a team that will complement each other.
“We expect to open mid-May with a takeaway offering and take-home ready meals, but then be ready to go when the government gives the OK to reopen.”
In Cork last year, the city council with support from the National Transport Authority (NTA), launched an outdoor seating area weatherproofing fund to help restaurants, cafes, or bars with an outdoor seating licence pay for adaptations including removable enclosures, parasols, windbreakers or heaters.
Tables and chairs, which are removable items, and awnings, which require planning permission, were not eligible.
Businesses could apply for up to €2,000 per premises. Costs they had already incurred were ineligible.