'How are we going to survive'? - Pub and club owners devastated by 'ridiculous' Covid-19 measures

'How are we going to survive'? - Pub and club owners devastated by 'ridiculous' Covid-19 measures

Booking events manager Eoin Aherne with four out of the one hundred staff which are looking forward to working at the jazz festival at Cyprus Avenue in Cork. Included are Aaron O'Neill, Roger Escriba, Talita Rodrigues and Francisco Bueno. Picture Dan Linehan

“Discriminatory” new public health measures have been announced for the hospitality and events sectors that have left the industries with “less clarity than ever”.

Although the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy sectors can fully reopen on Friday, they can only do so with “the full range of protective measures in place”.

Impacted industries have slammed these "confusing" measures as "nonsensical".

They include allowing full capacity for indoor and outdoor live events but requiring the audience to be seated. People can only stand, or dance, at their seats at these venues. 

But nightclubs allow dancing, unmasked. And table service will still be required for all hospitality venues other than nightclubs.

Shane Dunne, MD at Cork’s Indiependence music festival and promoter with MCD Productions, described the new measures as “discriminatory.” “Today is a devastating day for the commercial live music business in Ireland,” he wrote on Twitter.

“It just gets more and more ridiculous. You can [have] 300 people on the dancefloor of a club but not the floor of Whelans?” 

“Can anyone explain the science behind standing in a club being okay and standing at a gig not being okay?” he asked.

DJ Stevie Grainger, aka Stevie G, said that he was “even more confused” about what was expected from his sector following today's government announcement. 

Although the measures should not impact his free gigs in the River Lee Hotel in Cork on Friday and Sunday night during the Cork Jazz Festival, he said that the announcement has made life difficult for music promoters all over the country.

If the people running shows can’t understand what’s going on, how can they explain it to others? It’s very confusing. There’s less clarity than ever now.

Ed O’Leary of The Good Room which has gigs including Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) booked for this weekend in Cork, also said that the measures are confusing.

“There’s a lot of mixed messages. You can dance in a nightclub but you can’t in a venue unless you’re next to your seat. Again, it hasn’t been thought out properly. 

“It is good news though that we can operate at full capacity. But it’s very late now.” 

Mr O’Leary and his team now have to email all ticket holders to explain that if they do not have a Covid Pass, they cannot come to the venue as the requirement to show a Covid pass before entering indoor venues has been extended.

“We’ll have a number of refunds to do no doubt,” he said.

“People from all over the country are coming to Cork for the Jazz Weekend. People have booked a show and they’re not sure if they can go now. It’s very frustrating."

Ger Kiely, owner of Cork’s Cyprus Avenue music venue and the Old Oak bar said that his sector is in chaos following the Government’s “nonsensical” decisions.

“It’s decisions being made by people who have no understanding of the industry,” he said.

“We were told we can operate at full capacity but you can’t seat standing gigs at full capacity, it would be a fire hazard.

“Seating gigs reduces capacity to less than 50%. You can’t operate the gigs at less than 50% capacity, you just can’t cover your costs," Mr Kiely said.

What do we do with the acts we’ve booked this weekend? What do we tell our staff? Do we tell them all ‘we can’t afford to pay you?’ 

"What do we do with all the people who’ve booked tickets with us? Do we just refund everyone, sit on our hands and do nothing?

“Months and months of work have gone into this weekend alone. We need an income, we haven’t had an income in 18 months.

“How are we going to survive?"

 Booking events manager Eoin Aherne outside CyprusAvenue in Cork, standing next to acts they have booked for the Jazz weekend. Picture Dan Linehan
Booking events manager Eoin Aherne outside CyprusAvenue in Cork, standing next to acts they have booked for the Jazz weekend. Picture Dan Linehan

However, concerns that Christmas parties may have to be cancelled, as no more than 10 adults can be seated at a table in hospitality venues, were somewhat allayed by Adrian Cummins of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

“If you can have black tie events of up to 100 people for business events, which happened in the past with IBEC, surely the Christmas parties can go ahead now if they call them ‘business events.’ People will use their own ingenuity to comply with the guideline,” he said.

He called for Fáilte Ireland to “step aside” from negotiations with the  Government on the hospitality sector’s behalf and “let the professionals in there” to liaise with decisionmakers instead.

The announcement that pubs must continue with mandatory table service while not permitting customers sit or stand at the bar until February at the earliest is a devastating blow to a sector that was expecting to see all restrictions removed this week, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said.

And maintaining restrictions will result in further pub closures as mandatory table service significantly reduces capacity in venues, the VFI warned.

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