Publicans hopeful of reopening in March

Publicans hopeful of reopening in March

Paul Montgomery of Clancy's bar and restaurant on Princess street, Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

One of Cork’s biggest bars is hoping to reopen for outdoor dining in March following optimistic sentiments from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar regarding Q2.

The comments from the Tánaiste were made at Tuesday’s briefing announcing an extension of the level five restrictions until March 5.

Speaking at the briefing Mr Varadkar said he knew businesses wanted certainty regarding reopening timelines but said it was not something he could provide given the unpredictable nature of the virus.

Mr Varadkar went on to say that by April and May he would be optimistic that the country would be in a “good place” with better weather, more vaccines administered and cases relatively low.

The Tánaiste went on to say that the supports for the Hospitality sector would be remaining in place and the government would also be looking at companies with significantly reduced turnover, not receiving the CRSS to see what help could be given to them.

Following the briefing, owner of Clancy’s bar Paul Montgomery said he was of the view that once March 5 comes and goes, outdoor dining won’t be too far behind.

Mr Montgomery said his establishment was “ready to hit the ground running” and said he would think that county-wide travel would likely be allowed but not nationwide travel.

The established publican said the “perfect storm” at Christmas of international travel and cross-county mingling would have been the case of a lot of the cases and that could not be allowed to repeat itself in the coming months.

Mr Montgomery said he was staying positive about the weeks and months ahead. 

“Things are bad now, but they are starting to look up. In 6/8 weeks we will have close to half a million vaccines administered, that is great, that is wonderful.” 

Cork City Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) chairperson Micheal O’Donovan also said he welcomed the comments from the Tánaiste but said the Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS) payment needed to be doubled.

“I am hearing of a lot of members who are struggling with bank loans or rates. 

"The current payment is 10% of your 2019 turnover, we are calling for it to be 20%.” 

Mr O’Donovan said he was hopeful for the summer months, but also said there were no guarantees.

“With improving weather, I am hopeful we can get back operating and the sooner the better.” 

The Cork chair of the Restaurant Association of Ireland Mike Ryan, who owns CoqBull and the Cornstore restaurants, also said he would like to see the CRSS doubled.

“The way things are we can’t open, there is nothing we can do about that at the moment, everything is closed, but how long can it go on for? 

"How long can the Government keep offering life support to these businesses?” 

Mr Ryan said the supports in Ireland currently were a lot better than in some other countries, but the CRSS was not enough.

“The biggest problem people have is commercial landlords are still insisting on 100% rent and the CRSS is falling short.” 

Mr Ryan said it made more sense to increase the payment and allow businesses to retain staff on the payroll in order to reduce the bleed of talent from the industry.

“The biggest problem we are going to face when we reopen is the lack of staff, there has been a mass exodus from the industry due to the uncertainty of the ongoing situation. It is too unpredictable.” 

The restaurateur said that if we want to keep the skills and expertise to maintain the countries reputation of the ”Céad Míle Fáilte” we need to look at safeguarding the talent in the sector.

“We need to protect and keep people in the industry.”

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