Micheál Martin says meal rule has been 'misrepresented completely' but Cork businesses critical of policy

Micheál Martin says meal rule has been 'misrepresented completely' but Cork businesses critical of policy

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘We have no interest in finding out what people are eating.’ Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

A REQUIREMENT for pubs and restaurants to retain food receipts for 28 days has been strongly criticised by Cork restaurateurs and publicans but the Taoiseach said it has been ”misrepresented completely”.

“We have no interest in finding out what people are eating,” Micheál Martin said this evening. “What we do have is [an interest] to protect existing businesses who are obeying the rules — that’s important — and also to avoid any rogue operators out there, not just in the context of that reg but other regs in terms of how people behave.

“It’s important in terms of all public health measures. They are all designed to protect lives and livelihoods and there has to be adherence to them.”

Mike Ryan, Cork representative for the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) and co-owner of the Cornstore and Coqbull in the city centre, said that the requirement will be “a logistical and administration nightmare” for bigger operators and near-impossible for smaller ones.

“Our restaurants are big and we would have invested in the past in very good till systems and reservation systems but even for us, it’s a logistic and administration nightmare because even though it’s easier for us [the bigger operators] than for most, it means that if you have a walk-in, you take their number on a clipboard and whatnot but then you need to find what table they were allocated,” Mr Ryan told The Echo.

“Then you have to find that on the till system and get the information to find out what they ordered.”

Mike Ryan of Cork’s Cornstore and Coqbull says the new receipt requirements present a ‘logistical and administration nightmare’ for businesses.	Picture: Larry Cummins
Mike Ryan of Cork’s Cornstore and Coqbull says the new receipt requirements present a ‘logistical and administration nightmare’ for businesses. Picture: Larry Cummins

Mr Ryan said the new measure has been brought in to tackle businesses which are not complying with the law, but those operating above board have to deal with the additional administrative burden during an already challenging time.

“We all get penalised because of a small few,” he said. “No one thought about the consequences for businesses and the stresses they are already under.”

Mr Ryan said the requirement will be immensely challenging for smaller operators with older till systems.

Ernest Cantillon, who owns Electric and Sober Lane, said that although his businesses will be fine, he believes the new measure poses a major challenge for others.

“It’s just making it more difficult and more expensive for traditional pubs,” he said.

Mr Cantillon said gardaí have visited his businesses on a number of occasions to ensure compliance.

“They have been very supportive but also very vigilant. They haven’t been afraid to ask questions,” he said. “Everyone seems to be playing ball so I just don’t know what problems this rule has been brought in to solve.”

Minister Simon Harris has said the measure is a “common sense” way to ensure coronavirus regulations are being enforced. He said the Government was not seeking details on customers’ menu choices but wanted proof that pubs were complying with the rule that only allows them to open if alcohol is served alongside a substantial meal.

“The Government doesn’t care whether you had a dessert or a cup of coffee, or whether you went for the banoffee or, as one publican asked me last night, if you change from the garlic sauce to the pepper sauce,” he said. “I mean, it’s not about this — what it is about is basically a bit of common sense prevailing here.”

Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor described the new rule as “bonkers”.

“These measures put great pressure on our restaurateurs and publicans,” he said. “It makes little sense to impose further measures when consideration is being given to reopening wet pubs.”

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