'If we have to close down again after reopening, then there's a risk to survival'

Pubs and restaurants gearing up for reopening but confusion over differing rules has left owners and proprieters confused
'If we have to close down again after reopening, then there's a risk to survival'

Brian and Louise kenny of the Boothouse Bar, Upper Glanmire, Cork looking forward to the easing of restrictions in the hospitalty sector. Picture Dan Linehan

Confusion with a side of frustration is the order of the day for pubs and restaurants when it comes to planning for the big reopening, according to Cork and Limerick owners.

The difference between when indoor dining can return in restaurants and hotels is unnecessary and unfair, Limerick hotelier Patricia Roberts said.

The owner of one of the oldest pubs in the country, Brian Kenny of the Boothouse Bar in Upper Glanmire, Cork, said while they are "bursting to get back", it is a head-scratcher trying to figure out which guidelines apply and which do not.

Fáilte Ireland was expected to issue guidance today suggesting that upon reopening, bars and restaurants can serve customers for 105 minutes indoors, if tables are less than 2m apart. That 2m rule would be halved for outdoor dining, with no time limits on eating and drinking.  However, the guidance has been delayed as the Department of the Taoiseach has not yet signed off on the Fáilte Ireland protocols.

Hotel guests can eat or drink indoors from next Wednesday, while pubs and restaurants can serve outdoors from June 7, and indoors from July.

 Patricia Roberts of No 1 Pery Square, Limerick. File picture: Brian Arthur
Patricia Roberts of No 1 Pery Square, Limerick. File picture: Brian Arthur

Ms Roberts, who runs the hotel No 1 Pery Square in Limerick City, said there shouldn’t be any distinction between indoor dining in a hotel or guesthouse and indoor dining in a restaurant.

I don't see the difference between a restaurant’s dining room versus a hotel's restaurant’s dining room. It just doesn’t make sense. 

'Lack of fairness'

Head chef Keith Pigott said there is “a lack of fairness” in some of the rules, and that he felt lucky to be a chef in a hotel restaurant.

Keith Pigott: Lack of fairness in some of the rules. File picture: Alan Place
Keith Pigott: Lack of fairness in some of the rules. File picture: Alan Place

“Outdoor dining is not viable for such a large percentage of businesses. There's certain costs involved in opening the doors, and you need a certain amount of customers to cover those costs."

He said he is someone who has followed the rules, but some are hard to swallow when they “just don’t seem to be based on science". He pointed to the 105-minute time limit on indoor dining as an example, where tables are just 1m apart.

The Boothouse Bar, meanwhile, dates back to at least 1773 and has been in the Kenny family, barring a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for well over 100 years.

Current proprietors Brian and Louise Kenny took over in 2008, having been handed the reins by Brian’s parents Derry and Bernie, who ran it for 35 years before that.

The Kennys said reopening last September was a real boost to not just themselves, but also the community. Having to close 16 days after reopening was soul-crushing.

Outdoor drinking was not a viable solution when Ireland is so weather-dependent, Mr Kenny said.

"We will have a few of our regular customers who will be here no matter what, as this has been a staple of the community for generations; not just as a place to drink, but as a place to meet and spend occasions with family and friends.

"However, a lot of our customers would be older, and we cannot expect them to stay outside all evening if it's bucketing down, wrapped in rain gear. That's just not realistic," he said.

The Boothouse Bar is in a similar position as many bars up and down the country, Mr Kenny said.

"We have to have certainty and clarity. Because if we have to close down again after reopening, then there's a risk to survival. The cost of opening, closing, and reopening again is immense, and it takes a huge toll, financially and mentally."

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