Indoor dining: Bars and restaurants face staffing headache ahead of reopening

Indoor dining: Bars and restaurants face staffing headache ahead of reopening

A waiter sets a table outside Hugo’s restaurant on Merrion Row in Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Restaurants and bars are preparing to reopen on Monday for indoor dining after draft guidelines for the hospitality sector were published late on Friday night. 

However, due to the timing of the publication, publicans and restaurateurs have been left with only two days to implement the comprehensive plans. 

As well, industry figures have warned of a staffing crisis in the industry as hospitality returns to full trade. 

Restaurants will be able to open indoors from Monday. Picture: PA
Restaurants will be able to open indoors from Monday. Picture: PA

Speaking to RTÉ's The Business, Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins said around 25% of bars and restaurants will not return will not reopen fully on Monday. 

Mr Cummins said that this estimate, "a gut feeling" is based on speaking to members who do not want to operate under the published guidelines. 

He believes that if the guidelines prove unworkable prove next week then the regulations may need to be revisited. 

The industry representative added that staffing is a pressing issue for many businesses. 

Trepidation and fear

Padraig Cribben, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation, also said not all premises will re-open on Monday.

He said some establishments have already made the decision to continue providing outdoor service only.

"A lot of these business haven't been open for 16 months. There's an amount of tension there, expectation, excitement but there is also an amount of trepidation and fear as well," said Mr Cribben.

Only those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months will be allowed to eat and drink indoors.

The rules state every restaurant and pub will have to record the details of every customer entering the premises for contact tracing.

Personal details will have to be produced alongside a copy of a Covid certificate to show they are either fully vaccinated or have had the virus.

All patrons, expect those under the age of 18, will be required to provide their name and phone number. The data will be kept for 28 days and must be compliant with GDPR.

The information will be recorded for both walk-ins and pre-bookings.

This has caused frustration in the hospitality industry as previous rules required only one person to provide contacts details on behalf of a group.

Mr Cribben says they did not feel this measure was particularly suitable for the trade and made that point to the Government.

"There have been protocols there in the past that have worked, Government have decided otherwise," said Mr Cribben.

"Really the option that businesses have is try and make work or stay closed until September/October and for businesses that have been closed since March of last year, that is not an appetising prospect."

The EU Digital Covid Certificate or the HSE Covid-19 Vaccination Record can be used for proof of vaccination status when entering pubs, restaurants, cafes or food courts.

Published by Fáilte Ireland, the guidelines also state that a maximum of six people over the age of 13 are allowed at each table.

The limit of six does not include children aged 12 or younger.

The total combined capacity at a table cannot exceed 15.

Customers can avail of table service, however cannot approach or order from the bar or other counter.

They are required to wear face coverings at all times other than when seated at their table.

Musical performance, dancing or other entertainment or mingling between tables is not allowed, while multiple tables cannot be booked.

Entrance points to bars and restaurants will be covered by staff who will use a scanner to check the vaccination status of each customer.

There are no time limits on indoor dining, however premises must be clear of all customers by 11.30pm.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar acknowledged the new system will be “inconvenient” for businesses, but he said it is the only way to reopen indoor dining.

“The restrictions being applied to this reopening are designed to be a temporary measure, and hugely important for the sector and their customers,” he said.

“I know that operating this new system will be inconvenient for business and could add to staff costs.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said the guidelines represent the only way the sector can reopen (PA)

“It is, however, the only way we can reopen and stay open throughout this Delta wave.

“Hopefully it will not be necessary in a few months’ time, but it is good to have it in place in case it is.

“There will be teething problems and we will work with the industry to review and amend the regulations as needed and based on practical experience.”

Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, said: “I am acutely aware of the devastation the necessary public health restrictions have had on tourism and hospitality businesses since March 2020 with many unable to open at all.

“Throughout this period the businesses and the people working in the sectors have made huge sacrifices which have benefitted society at large.”

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