'We need a lead in time': Cork publican says people in hospitality sector need time to prepare for changes to restrictions

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was hopeful Covid restrictions could be removed at the end of the month.
'We need a lead in time': Cork publican says people in hospitality sector need time to prepare for changes to restrictions

Loading a delivery of kegs into the basement is Philip Gillivan at The Shelbourne Bar. Pic; Larry Cummins

A CORK publican has said that people working in the hospitality sector must be given time to prepare for any changes to restrictions on the sector.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was hopeful Covid restrictions could be removed at the end of the month, allowing events and the hospitality sector to open after 8pm.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is meeting next Thursday and will advise Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, on the restrictions.

Mr Martin said the country was making progress against Omicron: “I would hope that we would be in a position to move forward in terms of the current restrictions but I’m not in a position yet to say anything definitive.”

Mr Martin added: “I want to really see what the public health people are saying, and also having a sense of where Omicron is.

“So far, I think, so good in respect of the fact that it’s not translating into ICU [intensive care unit] attendances. The case numbers seem to be levelling. So we are hopeful in terms of the progress we’ve made.”

Speaking to The Echo, Shelbourne Bar publican Philip Gillivan said, while the Taoiseach’s comments were positive and welcome, it was important that hospitality was given time to prepare for any changes.

“From an operational point of view, we need a lead-in time; we can’t just turn it on and off. We have staff and we need to plan. There is no point telling us at the last minute, knee-jerk reaction stuff,” he said.

Extension of closing time needed 

Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) Cork City chairperson Michael O’Donovan said an extension of closing times was needed to restore vibrancy to towns, villages, and cities, and to make them safer.

Mr O’Donovan said the urban hubs of Cork had been dark, dreary, and unwelcoming since the 8pm closing time was introduced, and local communities are suffering.

Mr O’Donovan said the night-time economy brought the city to life.

 Michael O'Donovan, of The Castle Inn, South Main Street & Chairperson Cork City & Cork County Branch Vintners Federation of Ireland.
Michael O'Donovan, of The Castle Inn, South Main Street & Chairperson Cork City & Cork County Branch Vintners Federation of Ireland.

“Since the start of January, business has been decimated,” he said. “People are working until 5.30pm or 6pm and then, by the time they get home, shower, and get changed, the bars are closed.

“There is nothing happening. It’s like a ghost town and the few places that are open are trying their best to survive.”

Mr O’Donovan said it had been a long, tough road for staff, with reduced hours, reduced income, and a great deal of uncertainty.

“It’s been a tough road for them,” he said.

Watching developments closely 

A spokesperson for the Everyman Theatre said they welcomed the prospect of an end to the restrictions.

“To the forefront of our minds at all times is the safety of our audiences, our performers, and our staff, and we will watch developments closely and implement any changes as and when public health advice allows,” they said.

Eibhlin Gleeson, Cork Opera House
Eibhlin Gleeson, Cork Opera House

Also welcoming the news was Cork Opera House chief executive Eibhlín Gleeson: “Like everyone across our industry, we are encouraged by any news that means we can return to normal business hours and welcome our patrons back for a wide variety of shows over the coming months.”

Cork singer-songwriter Hank Wedel said it had been a hard two years for everyone, and he hoped things could safely get back to something approaching normal.

“I’m looking forward to performing to punters and welcoming travelling troubadours to Monday nights at Charlie’s,” he said.

This was echoed by fellow Cork singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke, who said he looked forward to playing in front of live audiences again.

“Hopefully, this will be the beginning of better times and we can all continue to mind each other while getting on with our lives,” he said.

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