Hospitality sector facing 'bleak future' if industry does not reopen until mid-summer, says Cork hotelier 

Hospitality sector facing 'bleak future' if industry does not reopen until mid-summer, says Cork hotelier 

In an RTÉ interview, Mr Martin said: “We don’t foresee that [reopening hospitality] before the middle of the summer.

A LEADING Cork hotelier has warned that the hospitality sector is facing a very “bleak future” if the industry does not reopen until the middle of summer.

The comments from Michael Magner, proprietor of the Vienna Woods Hotel, followed comments by the Taoiseach at the weekend that ministers will not consider reopening hospitality until the middle of the summer.

Micheál Martin expressed concern about uncertainties surrounding new variants of Covid-19 and high numbers of infections.

In an RTÉ interview, Mr Martin said: “We don’t foresee that [reopening hospitality] before the middle of the summer.

“What the public health authorities are saying is that we stick with this until the end of April, then we reflect on the situation and make decisions about the months ahead.”

Communication concerns 

Business figures in the hospitality industry in Cork have expressed their disappointment following the news and the way in which it was communicated.

They have also highlighted concerns about the “human capital” leaving the industry and the need for increased business supports for the sector.

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

Vienna Woods Hotel proprietor Michael Magner said he was disappointed with the lack of communication with the hospitality sector.

“The issue we have is the Taoiseach taking it upon himself to tell our employees they won’t have their jobs back until the middle of the summer,” he said.

“I’m sure his intent was not ill-meaning, but the reality is that should be my job. I employ 100 people. It is disappointing to think that as a sector, we found out on the airwaves about our sector being closed for longer.

“Communication should have been better. We have representation associations across all the hospitality sector and an official from the Taoiseach’s department should have notified our trade association. We as employers should have the information to engage with our employees.”

The Cork hotelier echoed calls for increased supports for the industry.

“The supports the Government has provided us are welcomed, but they are going to have to be increased to ensure businesses don’t go under,” he said.

“The people who work in this sector have no job security. EWSS, the commercial rates waiver, the CRSS, and bank moratoriums remain huge issues and will need to be continued.”

Mr Magner said the hospitality sector is facing a very ‘bleak future’ if it does not reopen until the middle of the summer.

“If we don’t reopen until the middle of July, we will only have six weeks of a holiday season,” he said. “When you consider the real prospect of no international travel this year, the entire hospitality sector is facing a very bleak future. It is going to be very difficult.”

Michael O'Donovan of the Castle Inn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Michael O'Donovan of the Castle Inn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Chairman of the Cork branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Michael O’Donovan said he was also disappointed by how the news was communicated.

“We have become used to these leaks coming out, but it is disappointing when the Taoiseach says it on a Saturday morning,” he said. “We are all playing our part in following the guidelines. but to get such devastating news and the timing of it was disappointing.”

Mr O’Donovan, of the Castle Inn, has also called for more support to be made available.

“Our members are hugely concerned,” he said.

Bills and debt 'mounting up'

“A lot of them had budgeted until Easter and they have huge concerns beyond Easter as bills and debt are still mounting up. The human capital leaving our industry is also becoming a major problem as people are looking elsewhere for jobs as they have financial worries.”

Kevin Aherne Sage Restaurant, Midleton. Picture: Clare Keogh
Kevin Aherne Sage Restaurant, Midleton. Picture: Clare Keogh

Kevin Aherne, owner of Sage Restaurant in Midleton, praised the Government for its financial supports thus far, but said they will need to continue if the hospitality industry cannot open for the foreseeable future.

“What they have done with regards to helping businesses has been beneficial,” he said.

“They will definitely have to bring in some more measures however going forward such as lowering the Vat rate for a substantial amount of time, and probably not collecting rates for the rest of the year depending on how this unfolds.”

Mr Aherne said that he is finding it harder to remain positive.

“We will definitely be reopening fully when we get the all-clear,” he said. “We were hoping for it to be sooner, but the main priority is public safety. There is light coming at the end of the tunnel, however, unfortunately the tunnel is getting longer and longer. It’s getting hard to remain positive.”

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said in a statement to The Echo: “The Cabinet will discuss the ongoing level of restrictions on Tuesday. The Government will continue to provide strong State supports for businesses affected by the pandemic, and assist the phased reopening of specific sectors when the public health situation makes that possible.”

Extended opening hours 

Meanwhile, reports that nightclubs look set to be allowed to stay open later and Sunday pub opening hours will be extended later this year under a plan by the justice minister to reform the licensing laws have been welcomed.

Ernest Cantillon, who owns Electric and Sober Lane welcomed the proposed changes. 

“These moves from the Minister are positive. Cork has the earliest closing time out of all the major cities in Ireland. To get a level playing field would be great. It is potentially good news. It would be good to see reform as some of the rules are antiquated.

“Businesses need a boost. Everybody will benefit from these changes, the exchequer, business owners and people going out enjoying themselves. It is pro-business,” he said.

 Publican Ernest Cantillon. Picture Dan Linehan
Publican Ernest Cantillon. Picture Dan Linehan

The Cork businessman also welcomed suggestions changes may be forthcoming with regards to the elite nightclub exemption. 

“They are also looking to change the cost of elite nightclub exemption. For a premises to stay open late you have to have a dance license for each night which is a costly process. It is totally prohibitive for smaller venues. There is talk of adjusting this which would be a big reform.”

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