Travel to Northern Ireland to go drinking ‘inevitable’ if pubs don’t open in six weeks

By the end of May, pubs will have ben closed for the best part of 15 months
Travel to Northern Ireland to go drinking ‘inevitable’ if pubs don’t open in six weeks

Northern Ireland is set to allow pubs and restaurants to reopen for outdoor service on April 30. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

People will travel across the border to avail of nights out in the north if pubs and restaurants don’t reopen in Ireland in six weeks time, Ireland’s two main vintners’ groups have claimed.

The Licenced Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) are calling for the return of outdoor eating and drinking before the end of May, following the return of pubs and restaurants for outdoor service in Northern Ireland on April 30.

LVA CEO Donall O’Keeffe says it is “inevitable” border counties will try to travel into the north”unless the Republic is given some options.

“At the border counties and maybe further afield, you will see travel into the North for weekends, you will see travel across the border for nights out – it is simply inevitable,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“That is further impetus for our roadmap to be followed. If we begin outdoor on May 24 as we propose, that is the same day as the North begins indoor – at least there will be some options for people at this stage.” 

Padraig Cribben, CEO of the VFI, said restaurant owners and publicans feel “abandoned” by the Government, and asked that it follow the north’s suit to offer some “degree of certainty and stability to the trade.” 

Mr O’Keefe said the country “will be in a very different position in six weeks time” in terms of the vaccination rollout and that it would be an “appropriate stage to begin for all services.” 

“In terms of outdoor service, there is a consensus view from the health experts that outdoor is the safest way to go,” the LVA CEO said.

Both the LVA and VFI have said that pubs and hospitality businesses should be allowed to reopen at the same time, to avoid the divisions seen between wet pubs and gastropubs last year.

“We can see no difference why you can’t have a drink outside a pub as opposed to a meal outside a pub.

“That changes the perspective for everyone. When we approach 80% of the population being vaccinated then surely our businesses can resume,” he said.

Mr O’Keefe highlighted that come the end of May, pubs will have been closed for nearly 15 months and claimed: “these businesses have played no role whatsoever in the Covid pandemic.”

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