New draft guidelines for the reopening of pubs that do not serve food have been welcomed by Cork publicans, who have called on the government to provide a reopening date.
The guidelines, drawn up by Fáilte Ireland and circulated to vintners' groups over the weekend, 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.
Speaking to The Echo, Michael O’Donovan, who runs the Castle Inn on South Main Street and is Cork City Chairperson of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, welcomed the new guidelines.
However, he explained that publicans are anxiously awaiting instruction from the government on when they can reopen under these guidelines.
There were reports at the weekend that pubs could reopen by the middle of this month but such suggestions have been described as “overly optimistic” by senior government sources.
“I welcome the publication of these guidelines, which we have been looking for for a long time,” he said.
“The biggest thing now for publicans across Cork and Ireland is getting that date for reopening, to go along with the guidelines.
“We’re all keen and preparing to reopen so we just need that date from the government,” he added.
“The guidelines are an important first part of the jigsaw but they mean little without the date for reopening, the second piece of that jigsaw.”
Pubs that served food were permitted to open earlier this summer but so-called wet pubs have been closed since March, when lockdown guidelines were first implemented.
Mr O’Donovan said the time is right to reopen.
“We have been closed for six months, nearly seven at this stage” he explained. “During that time, we have still had bills to pay including lighting and heating, which will only increase as we enter the winter months.
“In the meantime, we’ve had woeful support from the government and some pubs were given just €64 per week they were closed. That’s not going to do much good when it comes to bills, rent and mortgages.
“It’s crucial now that we get that reopening date as soon as possible.
“The guidelines are all well and good, and it’s great to get them, but the big concern now for publicans is ensuring that we get a firm date for reopening as soon as possible.”
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 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.
Publicans have been advised to organise the cleaning of beer lines ahead of reopening, as a “notice period may be required by breweries or suppliers”.