'We're being turned into the Covid police': Concerns raised about reopening of indoor hospitality 

'We're being turned into the Covid police': Concerns raised about reopening of indoor hospitality 

Publican Benny McCabe. Pic: Larry Cummins

SOME restaurants and bars in Cork have decided against reopening for indoor dining after raising concerns about the long-term impact of applying rules which could separate family members and friends, with concerns for unvaccinated staff also an issue.

Longboats Plates and Pours in Ballintemple have made the decision to close their doors for two weeks from Monday July 26.

Manager Con O’Driscoll said he doesn’t want to be “splitting up” families and friends between inside and outside under the new rules.

“I think in the next week or two, when the bars open on the inside, there’s going to be carnage. It’s going to affect the whole pub business going forward because we’re now being tuned into Covid police,” he said.

After 22 years in business, he said things have become difficult in the last year and that his family’s livelihood has been “bashed around” for over a year and with “short-sighted” rules and regulations that will have a “detrimental effect” in the long-term.

“We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel so we’re going to do two weeks off and see how everybody else gets on.” 

He said the main concern is the policing aspect and unvaccinated staff.

Mr O’Driscoll said: “Our staff are being abused, our staff are being given out to, and people threaten that they’ll never drink in this bar again or eat in this bar again and all because we’ve enforced these rules.” 

Mr O’Driscoll added that some customers hold grudges, and he fears the consequences if he was to split people up.

“It’s short-term pain that’s going to crucify bars going forward. People don’t forget.” 

Benny McCabe, who owns a number of bars in Cork said it is unfair to have unvaccinated staff serving people indoors while they themselves cannot enjoy a drink inside.

Speaking to The Echo, Mr McCabe said it is a view that they have held for quite a while.

“Simply, you can’t expect a young person to serve people indoors and not be allowed to go out to a pub themselves and have a drink.” 

Mr McCabe previously spoke out against the requirement to pay for a €9 meal when pubs previously reopened their doors.

“We advocated for our elderly customers and those less fortunate last year with the €9 meal…you can’t ignore equality for the younger workers as well.” 

Meanwhile, The Bulman Bar and Restaurant in Kinsale also took to social media to inform customers that they have decided against opening their indoor area. They said they will remain closed for indoor dining while their “hard-working and brilliant” young workforce remains unvaccinated.

West Café and Wine Bar in Bantry also recently announced their decision to remain operating solely outdoors. Owners Chris Heinhold and Emer Kelly said they did not feel the time was right to reopen for indoor dining.

Mr Heinhold said he does not think there has been enough planning for the return of indoor hospitality for those who are fully vaccinated.

“For us, we’ll just wait because we have that option. I’m not ruling out indoor dining at some point in the future, obviously, we will open indoors eventually but when we find it is safe to do so.” He said they would not be confident in reopening indoors on Monday.

“I’d say everyone is nervous about it, to be honest. Some of the people I’ve talked to have resigned to it, they feel like they have to go ahead and open.

“There’s definitely people who are concerned that when they do open, they’re just going to end up in another lockdown again.” 

“That’s a big fear.” 

Cornstore staff member Cathy Guerin and Mike Ryan. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Cornstore staff member Cathy Guerin and Mike Ryan. Pic: Larry Cummins.

Mike Ryan, owner of the Cornstore and CoqBull restaurants, said: “It’s great for people to get back inside.

“I think some traders will wait, take a few weeks to get their ducks in a row, while others will go full steam ahead.

“There is definitely a lack of clarity in relation to what is expected of establishments, do we need CO2 monitors? Do we need ventilation systems? It all depends on what they decide how quickly we can get up and running.

“It’s a shame it's being done in the eleventh hour. It’s great we are getting over the line, but it also feels like we are stumbling over the line,” Mr Ryan added.

The Cork Chair of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has also raised concerns about rising Covid-19 case numbers resulting in hospitality being used as a scapegoat.

“I want to be positive, but as predicted, there will be an increase in numbers over the coming weeks and I just hope hospitality is not used as a scapegoat."

Mr Ryan said he thought the paperwork would be a bit of a headache and there was a catch 22 in relation to standing over the authenticity of Covid vaccination certification. “Time will tell how it will all work out.” 

His concerns came as 1,378 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland yesterday.

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said: “We now have over 65% of our adult population fully vaccinated.

“We know that Covid-19 vaccines are extraordinarily effective at reducing each person’s individual risk of hospitalisation or severe disease. The Delta variant does not change this.

“However, this variant is much more transmissible than what we have been dealing with previously and, as such, the challenge remains to protect as many people through vaccination as quickly as possible, across all age groups.

“Vaccines along with the core public health advice remain our pathway out of this pandemic – please avail of the opportunity to get protected through vaccination when it is offered to you.

“The basic measures remain as important and effective now as at any point in the pandemic and remember no one measure is sufficient by itself. When you meet people, keep your distance and meet outside, avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated indoor space, use your judgement, risk assess and leave if you don’t feel safe, wash your hands and wear a mask, isolate and get a test if you have any symptoms – do not go to work or socialise.”

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