Cork publicans have broadly welcomed the news that pubs not serving food can reopen from September 21, and have commenced preparations to reopen their doors.
However, with less than two weeks until they re-open, some concerns remain.
The government announced on Tuesday that so-called ‘wet pubs’ can reopen later this month.
Speaking to The Echo following the announcement, Cork city chairperson of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), Michael O’Donovan, said it is a huge relief to finally get a reopening date.
“We have 13 days to get ready, so that is very doable,” he said.
“Most pubs are prepared anyway, they just have to re-engage staff and stock up.
“On September 21, it will be 189 days since pubs closed their doors,” he added.
Mr O’Donovan said publicans have a fairly good idea of the guidelines from the reported draft, but he said he hoped official protocols would be released very soon to assist publicans in ensuring they were ready to open their doors.
The draft guidelines are broadly the same as those implemented for pubs serving food.
Customer records are to be kept for contact tracing purposes and time slots are limited to one hour and 45 minutes where physical distancing of one metre can be maintained.
However, time slots are not required where physical distancing of two metres can be “strictly maintained”, under the new guidelines, which also state that physical distancing is required for those from different households.
Under the proposed draft guidelines, customers will have to order from their tables and ensure they leave pubs by 11.30pm.
Meanwhile, groups are to be limited to a maximum of six people from no more than three households and publicans will be required to record the name and number of the lead person in the group as well as arrival times.
The guidelines, drawn up by Fáilte Ireland also state that employees working behind the bar should maintain a distance of two metres where “reasonably possible”, that straws should be individually wrapped and drink decorations kept to a minimum.
Meanwhile, it is also stated that customers must remain seated when using the smoking area of pub premises.
John O’Connor of An Spailpin Fanach welcomed the news but added that it will be hard to police the 105 minutes allotted time for patrons that are only one metre apart in pubs.
“I’m very happy at the announcement,” he told The Echo.
“After six months of being closed, it’s great news.
“The new restrictions should work fine, and once we’re up and running, it’ll work fine,” he added.
“It’s been an unbelievable six months, we’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ian O’Brien of the Cotton Ball pub in Mayfield also welcomed the news but said he is unsure if the pub will reopen just yet.
“It’s great news that pubs are allowed to reopen after being closed for so long.
“We also have the brewery here and from a manufacturing and sales point of view, it’s great news in that sense.
“But I think it’ll be a very slow burner and it’ll depend on how quickly things can get up and running,” he added.
“There are still lots of questions to be answered in the next few days as we look forward.”
The public will have a large part to play in ensuring pubs are able to reopen effectively and safely, explained Michael O’Donovan.
The publican said they were hoping for a lot of public support in reopening and the proof would be in the pudding as to whether people returned to the pub or not.
“I hope they work with us and follow the guidelines - we need to learn to live with this virus,” he said.
“For a lot of publicans, this will be a new experience for them and the public are accustomed to the necessary measures now from going into shops etc.
“We would appreciate it if they follow the guidelines,” he added.
Mr O’Donovan said the 1 hour and 45-minute rule is “not ideal” but said they would just have to “get on with it.
Meanwhile, the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, warned that the reopening date does not negate the threat faced by pubs in Ireland.
“The future of many of the sector’s businesses still remains under threat, with many still unsure if they can recuperate from the damage caused over the past six months,” they said.
“After enduring the longest lockdown in the EU, Ireland’s pub trade has suffered from some of the most detrimental impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The group called on the government to reduce the excise tax by 15% in Budget 2021, to “create economical environments in which the pub trade can survive”.
“Ensuring that our pubs can reopen with a fighting chance of survival needs to be the priority going forward,” they said.