Paul Hosford: Indoor dining yet another messy rollout to dent public confidence

The decision to open hospitality indoors on July 26 was flagged more than three weeks ago, yet with five days to go, departments were not being clear in their instructions to the Attorney General
Paul Hosford: Indoor dining yet another messy rollout to dent public confidence

Peter Roche, from Finglas, Dublin, centre. enjoys a pint with his friends Jack Edwards, right, from Florida, and Archie Rutledge, from Texas, in Mulligans Bar on Poolbeg Street in Dublin as indoor dining in pubs and restaurants reopened across Ireland on Monday.

And so, after division and protest and waiting, the return of indoor dining.

If you're fully vaccinated or under 18, that is. Not quite Freedom Day, but a further step on the road.

The sight of people popping in to restaurants and bars across the country was largely welcome, but was packed with reminders of how far we have yet to go and the mistakes made in this reopening.

Patricia Bree and Collette Harton having coffee at KC Peaches cafe in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie
Patricia Bree and Collette Harton having coffee at KC Peaches cafe in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

First, there is the elephant in the room that younger adults are, for the most part, welcome in establishments only as staff. Through no fault of their own, the vast majority are not vaccinated, so will not be allowed eat or drink inside the premises in which they work. 

That this age cohort was able to register for mRNA vaccines on the day hospitality opened was a strange irony. 

A number of businesses have made the determination that this would be unfair and unsafe and have decided to remain closed or exclusively as outdoor businesses.

Struggling to fill vacancies

Meanwhile, the industry says it is struggling to fill vacancies due to a number of reasons, but among them being that many staff have either left the industry to go into, in many cases, better paying jobs in retail or healthcare or have left the country altogether.

Customers Michelle Murphy and Ivet Corvea from Cuba having a drink in Cafe en Seine in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie
Customers Michelle Murphy and Ivet Corvea from Cuba having a drink in Cafe en Seine in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

Those who did open did so with last-minute changes to regulations which they had taken first sight of late on Friday. 

Now, business will no longer have to record the details of every person at each table as they had been told just 72 hours previously. 

There will now only be a requirement to get the details of the lead member of the party for contact tracing reasons.

Furthermore, the requirement for designated tables has been removed. Businesses will not have to record what table each party sat at.

The details of how the industry would reopen did not come after Cabinet signed off on the move last Wednesday, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar saying the instructions from Government departments needed to be "clearer". 

Another 48 hours would elapse before the guidance would be published on Friday evening, along with a new QR scanner for the industry.

Goalposts moved again

Having been closed for all of 2021, at least, many businesses were left to scramble over the weekend to get their ducks in a row, as it were, before the goalposts were moved again.

In one example, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins pointed out that restaurants had been banned from offering buffets and self-service areas, despite hotel restaurants being allowed to do so.

Customer Jim Whelan enjoys a pint of Guinness poured by barman Damian Ellis in Doheny & Nesbitt pub in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie
Customer Jim Whelan enjoys a pint of Guinness poured by barman Damian Ellis in Doheny & Nesbitt pub in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

It was yet another messy rollout in a year replete with them and the burden of that mess fell largely on businesses and their staff. While nothing catastrophic happened with the regulations, no lives or livelihoods were lost because of a contradictory rollout.

But these types of things do and have damaged public confidence in everything that the Government does with regards to this pandemic. 

The decision to open hospitality indoors on July 26 was flagged more than three weeks ago, yet with five days to go, departments were not being clear in their instructions to the Attorney General.

But in the end, the only ones inconvenienced were people who now have to police and enforce the system designed for them.

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