Cork publicans seek clarity and reasoning behind Covid-19 reopening restrictions

Cork publicans seek clarity and reasoning behind Covid-19 reopening restrictions
Ernest Cantillon outside his bar and restaurant Electric. Picture: Denis Scannell

CORK publicans are frustrated and seeking clarity on restrictions imposed on reopening by the Government.

Pubs and bars that operate as restaurants can reopen from Monday, June 29, and one-metre social distancing may be allowed.

However, a limit of 90 minutes per customer and mandatory pre-booking may be imposed, according to a draft document drawn up by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Fáilte Ireland has said customers will likely be required to purchase a minimum €9 meal.

Ernest Cantillon, who owns Electric and Sober Lane, told The Echo the restrictions will be very difficult to enforce, especially during live sports screenings.

The publican also said the time restriction encourages higher turnover, and does not promote responsible drinking.

“We will have more people coming through our doors and some people will be trying to drink as much as they can within their 90 minutes.”

Mr Cantillon said he realised there must be some reasoning for the guideline but said he didn’t understand it.

Cork City VFI chairperson Michael O'Donovan.Picture: David Keane.
Cork City VFI chairperson Michael O'Donovan.Picture: David Keane.

Cork City chairperson of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, Michael O’Donovan, said he is frustrated by the lack of time given to pubs to prepare to reopen under the new guidelines.

“We were promised guidelines last week, then we were told last Friday, then early this week and now it looks like it will be this evening or Friday morning,” he said.

Businesses that are meant to be opening in ten days have been left with a small window to organise staffing, training on the new guidelines as well as order and process deliveries.

Despite this, Mr O’Donovan welcomed the reports that social distancing can be reduced from two metres to one in “certain circumstances. Fáilte Ireland said meals sold in such premises must be “of a kind for which it would be reasonable to charge not less than €9.”

The guidelines are expected to say that the food on offer would “be expected to be served as a main midday or evening meal or as a main course in either such meal.”

Mr O’Donovan said: “This will increase the capacity of any bar to 65%, which is very welcome. The two metres would have made it very difficult to open and trade but the one metre will at least give publicans a fighting chance to make the business viable.”

Clancy's Bar & Restaurant.Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Clancy's Bar & Restaurant.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Pubs such as Clancy’s on Princes Street and O’Dwyers on Washington Street have reported high demand for Monday, June 29, with tables booked out all day.

Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has previously said pubs operating as restaurants would not mean people meeting up “for a few pints and having a packet of peanuts.”

Vintners’ Federation of Ireland chief executive Padraig Cribben said the messaging around pubs remains unclear. He said €9 rule for meals derives from the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962.

“It is the only piece of legislation that actually has a definition on food so Government and the powers-that-be have latched on to that particular definition,” he said.

“Individual operators who wouldn’t have served food before this will have to go away now and see if they want to go along with it. The 20th of July when all pubs can reopen is only three weeks away after that.”

He said pubs do not have clarity whether the two-metre rule will remain in place when all pubs are allowed to reopen on July 20.

“That has been causing us problems the past few weeks so we want to get clear guidelines on the two-metre issue for pubs as that is only a month away,” he said.

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