'Let us open and prove that we can all follow guidelines': Hospitality calls for clarity on reopening

'Let us open and prove that we can all follow guidelines': Hospitality calls for clarity on reopening

Michael O'Donovan Cork City Chairperson of Vintners Federation of Ireland pictured at the reopening of his pub The Castle Inn, Cork city. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The Government is being urged to provide clarification on what the summer will look like for the hospitality sector.

Hotel and guesthouse owners in Co Cork, and across the country, are seeking a commitment to specific measures and supports, including inter-county travel, that will enable businesses to plan for a safe and sustainable reopening, while the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) is asking for outdoor trading to begin on May 28.

The calls come ahead of the Government’s anticipated announcement, later this week, on the country’s reopening.

Fergal Harte, chair of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels’ Federation (IHF), said that while they recognise the challenges around public health and the suppression of Covid-19, “the ongoing lack of detail is jeopardising the viability of hotels and guesthouses, as they grapple with the financial and operational commitments required to be ready to reopen after months of prolonged closure”.

Mr Harte said that booking levels have never been this low so close to the key, summer months and he said those summer reservations are a lifebuoy for many businesses for the remainder of the year.

“Unless this is turned around quickly, there will be serious implications for the recovery of our sector here in Cork, and elsewhere, that could take years to remedy."

The IHF is calling for the Government to commit to a number of measures to enable hotels and guesthouses to reopen safely and sustainably, including inter-county travel, capacity linked to function-room size, and plans for easing of restrictions for family gatherings, such as weddings and christenings.

“We also require a commitment on business and employment supports,” Mr Harte said. “While the supports, to date, have been very welcome, it is essential that the Government provides greater clarity and certainty, now, around supports into 2022 and beyond. ‘Wait and see’ is not the approach for sustainable business planning and job recovery.”

The VFI said that the imminent government announcement must provide a coherent strategy for pubs, through indicative dates for both outdoor and indoor trading.

VFI Cork City chair, Micheal O’Donovan, said the sector was “desperate” for a plan and that losing another summer would be “detrimental” to the survival of many establishments.

The Cork publican, who runs The Castle Inn, on South Main St, said the Government must reach out to the industry to allow publicans and breweries to prepare for reopening.

The VFI is also calling for pubs to be allowed to reopen for outdoor trading on May 28, followed by indoor trading on June 18, after a recent survey of VFI members revealed an “overwhelming demand” for the Government to follow the Northern Ireland reopening strategy.

Mr O’Donovan said that publicans need to be given a chance to prove themselves as professionals and to show that they can follow the guidelines.

“We should be treated equally,” Mr O’Donovan said.

“We should be given the opportunity. It is soul-destroying to see some places open and others closed.

“We are hoping that doesn’t happen this year.

“Let us open and prove that we can all follow guidelines. We are used to looking after people: It is what we do.”

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