THE excitement in Cork ahead of the return of indoor hospitality cannot be denied, despite some criticism of the new rules.
Following the publication of new guidelines, a number of pubs, restaurants, and cafes across Cork are welcoming customers indoors for the first time this year.
Man Friday in Kinsale is one of those set to reopen its doors today.
The restaurant closed last December and though it has been operating a deli and pop-up burger joint, seeing customers dining indoors once again will be a welcome sight.
“We’ve done a big refurbishment and it’s looking great now. We’ve it all set up so it’s fantastic to welcome all of the regulars back,” said owner and chef Daniel Horgan ahead of the return.
“We’ve a great Kinsale following, so a lot of regulars have been stopping us on the street and wishing us luck.”
However, Mr Horgan said it was “frustrating” that the guidelines were published just two days before the planned return.
“I can’t understand how the Government haven’t months ago figured out different scenarios — plan a, plan b, plan c,” he said. “Instead, we’re still trying to figure out last minute, but it’s fine. We’ll get through it.”
The restaurant is fully booked for the next week and after having an “amazing” summer last year, Mr Horgan is looking forward to seeing customers again.
“It’s good to get back to the bread and butter of it,” he said.
More than 3,000 pubs will also reopen today.
Padraig Cribben, Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) chief executive, described it as “a big day for the trade” and urged customers to work with publicans as they implement the new guidelines.
He described the guidelines as being “onerous and cumbersome” for staff to implement, as pubs will have to record the personal details of everyone entering the venue, while keeping a separate, anonymous record that confirms vaccine passes were checked.
“We’re asking people to be patient, cooperate, and please remember that publicans and their staff are only doing their job,” said Mr Cribben.
Michael O’Donovan, Cork chairperson of VFI, said he is “excited” to get his pub back up and running.
The Castle Inn closed last autumn and as a “wet” pub, did not get to reopen over Christmas.
While looking forward to the reopening, Mr O’Donovan said he is also “nervous” following changes to the guidelines.
The EU digital Covid certificate will be the primary proof of immunity to avail of indoor hospitality, though HSE Covid-19 vaccination records are also to be accepted.
With this, customers may be asked for a photo ID to show that the proof of immunity belongs to them. Contact-tracing details for all customers will also now be required.
Mr O’Donovan said that the guidelines are “putting even more of an onerous task” on publicans to ask members of the public for their ID, which up to now “wasn’t part of the protocols” discussed.
“To see a change at the last minute was very disappointing,” said Mr O’Donovan.
“Publicans would know the vast majority of their customers. They’re locals and having to ask your regulars for ID when you’ve known them 30 or 40 years, it’s not an ideal scenario. But it’s what is in place and it’s what we have to do to get started.”
Having been closed for so long, the excitement has been building at the South Main St pub.
“I’ve been in the bar all week, a couple of hours each day, getting prepared, and people pop their heads in.
“It’s great to see the older clientele coming back. We have a lot of regular elderly men and women in the afternoon and a lot of them have not availed of the outdoor dining because it’s just not for them,” he said.
“They’re really looking forward to coming back indoors.”