'There’s really no light at the end of the tunnel': Hospitality sector reeling following announcement on restrictions 

The Taoiseach last night announced a number of restrictions will be in effect from December 7 to January 9. 
'There’s really no light at the end of the tunnel': Hospitality sector reeling following announcement on restrictions 

The closure of nightclubs, a return to table service, a six-person table limit, and a limit of 50% capacity at entertainment, cultural, community, and sporting events, all to come into effect from December 7 to January 9. 

A CORK publican last night said the introduction of new restrictions for the sector was a blow for the industry and that “there’s really no light at the end of the tunnel”.

The closure of nightclubs, a return to table service, a six-person table limit, and a limit of 50% capacity at entertainment, cultural, community, and sporting events, all to come into effect from December 7 to January 9, were among measures announced by the Government last night as a means of tackling rising Covid-19 case numbers and the spread of the Omicron variant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said proof of vaccination will be required for entering gyms, leisure centres, and hotel bars and restaurants.

 Taoiseach Michael Martin addressed the Nation, at Government Buildings last night. Photo: Julien Behal.
Taoiseach Michael Martin addressed the Nation, at Government Buildings last night. Photo: Julien Behal.

“The challenge we face is that while we have stabilised the surge of cases in the country, the daily case numbers are still very high,” he said.

“The increased social mixing that normally comes with Christmas would put that under pressure in any case, but if Omicron takes hold and if it is more transmissible, the potential for a very serious crisis is obvious.”

Nphet has advised that gatherings in private homes over the coming weeks be kept to a maximum of four households at any one time

Mr Martin said that Cabinet had received “very stark” advice from public health experts this week.

“I understand and I share the disappointment and frustration that this will cause,” Mr Martin said.

“Across the country, very many people in the hospitality and entertainment industries will be bitterly disappointed by this news.”

A bleak Christmas 

John Styles, the general manager of Rearden’s in Cork, is one of them.

John Styles, general manager, Reardens Group, said that while the biggest blow to business will be the closure of nightclubs, the return to table service will be a “struggle”. Picture Denis Minihane.
John Styles, general manager, Reardens Group, said that while the biggest blow to business will be the closure of nightclubs, the return to table service will be a “struggle”. Picture Denis Minihane.

“We’re staying open but what a blow for the industry. I just don’t know how people are going to do it,” he told The Echo. “There’ll be a big grey cloud appearing over the next week or two. We’re entering a bleak Christmas now.”

While he said that the biggest blow to business will be the closure of nightclubs, the return to table service will be a “struggle”.

“It will kill a lot of small pubs and for us, we’re going to have to train people again, go back to a booking system. It’s forever changing, which is the big problem,” he said.

“There’s really no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Party cancellations 

Cancellation requests for Christmas parties and various bookings had already been filtering in to hotels before yesterday’s announcement.

“For the past three weeks there have been a lot of cancellations and a lot of uncertainty,” said Kingsley Hotel general manager and Cork chairman of the Irish Hotels Federation, Fergal Harte.

“We’ve always focussed on health and safety and been very careful to ensure that we’re fully adhering to guidelines but it can be frustrating.

“The Christmas party business and the smaller Christmas gatherings that we always would have relied on, all of that is gone. It does lead to a fairly bleak picture for the winter.”

Frank Mackey who plays Nanny Nellie in the Cork Opera House Panto which is due to get underway on December 10th. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Frank Mackey who plays Nanny Nellie in the Cork Opera House Panto which is due to get underway on December 10th. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The new capacity regulations come just one week before the opening night of the Cork Opera House pantomime.

In a statement, the theatre’s chief executive officer Eibhlín Gleeson asked for patience from those who hold tickets to shows and said they would need “time to regroup” and to decide how best to proceed.

“This is a hugely challenging time for everyone,” she said.

'A tough time to be in business'

Some smaller businesses, such as Saint Francis Provisions restaurant in Kinsale, were left reeling after the announcement that one-metre distancing between tables will be reintroduced.

“We are gutted. We may have to revert to take-away entirely because of our size,” said owner Barbara Nealon.

“It’s a big financial risk opening back up, just to be shut down. It’s a tough time to be in business.”

On the back of the announcements, Finance Minister Paschal Donohue confirmed that targeted support for the hospitality sector would be implemented.

Supports 

A new scheme, modelled on the Covid restrictions support scheme which operated in the earlier phases of the pandemic, is currently being worked on to supplement the employment wage subsidy scheme.

Businesses that expect their turnover to be below half of what it was in 2019 will qualify for a new weekly payment amounting to 12% of their turnover for the same week in 2019, up to a maximum of €5,000.

Covid certs for gyms 

Meanwhile, gym owners will now prepare to introduce a system for scanning vaccination certificates.

Shane O’Sullivan of Shane Sull Fitness in Cork is hoping that the new requirement will not affect his business too much.

“To be honest, I’d say the majority of people who are entering gyms are vaccinated already. I don’t think I have any clients who aren’t vaccinated so I doubt it will be an issue,” he said.

“People seem to be sensible and want to look after themselves so I hope it won’t affect gyms too much and fingers crossed we’ll be staying open after Christmas.”

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