THE publication of new guidelines for the reopening of hospitality has been welcomed by key figures in the industry in Cork but a lack of clarity on when restaurants, cafés and pubs can recommence indoor trading has been described as “frustrating”.
The guidelines, published yesterday, were drawn up by Fáilte Ireland in line with the Health Service Executive (HSE), Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).
Under the Government's current plan to ease restrictions, hotels, B&Bs, self-catering, caravan, camping and hostels will be allowed to reopen from June 2.
However, indoor restaurant and bar services must be restricted to overnight guests and residents only.
From June 7 outdoor services will be permitted, but restaurants, cafés and pubs have yet to be given a date for when indoor trading can recommence.
“It’s good to have guidelines and to see where it’s at but not to have a date attached to the guidelines that they can give, I find that very frustrating,” Cork Chair of the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) and restaurateur Mike Ryan told The Echo.
The RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins has called for all indoor dining to be permitted to recommence on June 2, alongside hotels – a point Mr Ryan said he would agree with.
“It’s fantastic that hotels can open, the industry needs to open. I just can’t see how they’re weighing up that a hotel dining room is deemed safer and more controlled than a standalone restaurant.
“There seems to be little consideration for restaurants and bars,” he said.
Six people aged 13 and over will be allowed per table when restaurants, pubs and cafés reopen this summer.
When children are included, the total number per table will be capped at 15 people (six people over 13 and nine children aged 12 and under), said Fáilte Ireland.
In an outdoor setting, physical distancing of a minimum of one metre is required between the outer edges of the party (back of chair to back of chair), as long as the business adheres to the protective measures.
In a controlled environment, such as pubs, bars, gastropubs, restaurants and cafés, physical distancing of at least two metres is required in an indoor setting.
No time limit is needed for outdoor dining, while the same will apply to indoor settings if the venue increases the distance between tables to two meters, otherwise a 105-minute limit will apply.
There will be no live music allowed and all pubs, restaurants and cafés must be clear of all patrons by 11.30pm.
As expected, the €9 meal rule has been scrapped - something Mr Ryan welcomed.
“I think that was a frustration for everyone.
“The biggest issue all along was people, if they wanted to go to multiple venues, were having to order food everywhere.
“We sell drink, but the main part of our business is food. If I have chefs in the kitchen to produce food, I want them to actually be able to produce the food not just to bring drinks to a table with a small bit of food.”
Ernest Cantillon, who owns Electric and Sober Lane, also welcomed this.
“It was also punitive for the person who might only have €10 to spend and would just like to pop out for a drink,” he said.
Ciarán Fitzgerald, director of the Blue Haven Collection which incorporates the Blue Haven Hotel, Hamlets Street Food and Gastro Garden and The Old Bank House in Kinsale as well as Vikki’s Wine & Tapas Bar in Sunday’s Well, welcomed the publication of the guidelines.
“Any clarity allows us plan and the guidelines now set the parameters that we need to work to and allow us get on with what we do best which is serving our customers in a safe and welcoming environment.
“A big percentage of our dining area is outdoors, particularly in Hamlets, so I welcome the amendments in relation to the increase in numbers for families with children 12 or younger and also the changes in distancing requirements as well as the removal of the €9 euro meal and time limit outdoors.
“I do believe there is a serious case to be made for allowing indoor dining in June for anyone with a proof of vaccine similar to [what] the Green Cert for travel will bring for international travel.
“This will allow people who are vaccinated to enjoy indoor dining in a safe and controlled manner and get us back open and operating in all areas earlier than if we wait for a July indoor opening,” he said.
The Government is due to outline further plans to reopen the hospitality sector on Friday, following updated advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.
It is expected to confirm the date indoor hospitality can resume, which it is anticipated will be in July.