CORK publicans have criticised rushes to judgement when making policy, and have called for clarity as to how their industry will be able to operate in December and the new year.
It comes as the Government looks set to restrict the sale of takeaway alcohol from pubs for the remainder of the level 5 period of restrictions.
It is understood Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will bring proposals to Cabinet tomorrow on the subject. The proposals may not amount to a complete ban.
The topic came to the fore when images emerged over the weekend on social media of crowds gathered in parts of Cork City, with similar scenes in Dublin.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told The Echo he was very concerned after seeing the pictures.
However, Benny McCabe, who owns a number of popular bars in the city centre, said that “to be hung by Facebook and to have this level of over-reaction is mad”.
“I think it has gone out of proportion,” he said. “I think there has been an over-reaction. There were crowds gathered outside a certain area and when this happens, everyone suffers. No pubs were open. We have to remember that.
“There were a bunch of people gathered and they weren’t rowdy.
“The gardaí asked them to move on and they did so without any fuss. It was magnificent policing.
“None of it would have happened if common decency prevailed and these people were allowed to sit outside a public house. It would have been orderly and well organised.”
Gardaí said they dealt with gatherings in line with current level 5 restrictions.
A Garda spokesperson said: “The crowds we encountered were asked to move on in compliance with the current level 5 regulations. There were no breaches of regulations detected. The people we encountered were easy to deal with.”
Ernest Cantillon, the owner of Electric, has called on the Government to provide clarity for business owners with regards to what measures will be introduced in December.
“Just to know what the plans are would be a huge help,” he said. “We have lots of foreign staff working with us and the quarantine is a big issue. If they go home for two weeks, they won’t be able to work for another two weeks after they come back. It is very hard to plan ahead.
“A huge amount of planning goes into organising Christmas with regards to orders and staffing. There is also a double payment due for social welfare recipients in the middle of December, so for people coming back to work, they will probably be working at a loss.”
Mr Cantillon said his business will not serve takeaway alcohol this weekend, even though he and his staff had already put procedures in place to ensure drinks they served were not consumed nearby.
“My team and I have made a decision,” said. “People feel strongly about this.
“The best way for us to show we are not the big bad wolf is not to serve takeaway drinks this weekend.”
Cork City Vintners Federation Ireland chairperson Michael O’Donovan, the owner of the Castle Inn on South Main St, also called for clarity on how pubs will be allowed to operate, with reports suggesting bars could open for a two-week period in the run-up to Christmas.
“A lot of the information coming from Nphet can be frightening. We would much prefer it coming from the Cabinet as they are making the decisions,” he said.
“If we go into level 3 after December 1, which allows 15 people outside, that is effectively closure for our industry.
“What we would be asking for is that people can have either indoor or outdoor opportunities to trade.
“Outdoor just isn’t viable. There are talks of us opening fully for two weeks over December, but speaking from my own experience that isn’t really viable.
“When we opened briefly in September, we took a huge financial hit. Opening up in the middle of December isn’t going to be an option for us.”