'2021 will be survival year': Cork business and hospitality leaders appeal for more support

'2021 will be survival year': Cork business and hospitality leaders appeal for more support

A quiet St. Patrick's Street, Cork, in the rain this week. The Taoiseach has said it could be May before restrictions relating to the opening of pubs could be lifted. 

Calls for the Government to increase the (Covid Restrictions Support Scheme) payments, extend the EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme) and abolish rates for the year are coming from Cork’s retail and hospitality sectors.

Cork city chairperson of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) Michael O’Donovan, said that the current CRSS payment was “woefully inadequate.” 

The Cork city publican made his comments following the Taoiseach’s Ireland AM Interview where he said he could not rule out the possibility that pubs could remain closed until May or June.

In the interview, Mr Martin said it was a “very challenging, very difficult” time and said the community tTransmission numbers were still too high to consider any easing of restrictions next week.

Mr Martin said it would be well into next month (February) before the cabinet would be looking at that.

Michael O'Donovan of the Castle Inn. 
Michael O'Donovan of the Castle Inn. 

Following the interview, Mr O’Donovan said public health has to be the number one priority. 

He said however that a lot of VFI members were struggling to pay their bills and he felt the CRSS was not enough.

“Members have a lot of outgoings, telephone, broadband, insurance, alarm systems, all of these bills are still being paid and then you have bank loans or mortgages. The CRSS is not paying all these bills.” 

Mr O’Donovan also called for local authority rates to be abolished for the year in order to give members some financial footing when they are able to reopen.

The VFI Cork City chairperson also asked that the EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme) be extended until the end of the year.

Cork Business Association (CBA) President Eoin O’Sullivan said there was no doubt that the extended lockdown would have a negative effect on the sector, but said the business community in Cork understood that the main priority is public health.

Mr O’Sullivan said the business community were looking for an efficient roll-out of the vaccine and also rapid and scalable testing for visitors at Cork Airport.

Eoin O'Sullivan, president of Cork Business Association. Picture Denis Minihane.
Eoin O'Sullivan, president of Cork Business Association. Picture Denis Minihane.

The CBA president also said that the community were looking for the VAT rate to remain at 9%, despite some discussion around increasing this rate and agreed that the EWSS needs to be extended.

“There is a severe bleed of talent at the moment across the sector and the EWSS is vitally important to help employers hold on to their staff.” 

Mr O’Sullivan also said that the business community also called for further moratoriums on bank loans for businesses and for employees in certain sectors.

“2021 was heralded as a recovery year, but it is more likely to be a survival year,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

Michael Magner, owner Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Michael Magner, owner Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire. Picture: Howard Crowdy

Hotelier Micheal Magner said the hotel sector has offered all possible assistance to the Government in the fight against Covid, including function rooms for vaccinating.

However, Mr Magner said that while the current Government supports were welcome and appreciated, they needed to be enhanced to safeguard the sector in the extended lockdown.

The hotelier said that overseas visitors are not likely to return to Cork until quarter four of 2021 which was of major concern.

Mr Magner said banks needed to show goodwill to business and assets.

Finally, Mr Magner said that mental health needed to be looked after.

“I have seen it in hospitality and tourism, the rolling lockdown and enhanced restrictions and social distancing, The Government needs to come up with a programme and plan to help those who need it. It has been tough on people, working for home and missing out of activities.” 

Mr Magner said the change in life/work balance can have an impact on people’s health and that was something the State needed to be mindful of.

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