By Michelle Devane, PA
The Government is likely to scrap the requirement for pubs to provide a “substantial meal” while serving alcohol when hospitality is allowed to reopen, the Minister for Transport has suggested.
Eamon Ryan said he does not believe there will be a distinction between wet pubs and pubs that serve food when hospitality reopens this summer and that it is unlikely it will be based on “whether or not you’re having chicken nuggets”.
The Green Party leader also confirmed the lifting of the inter-county travel ban will coincide with the reopening of hotels to allow people to travel domestically.
Mr Ryan said the “opening up of hospitality is inter-county travel”, adding “the two go together”.
His comments come ahead of a Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 meeting on Wednesday to consider what restrictions can be eased next month.
It is expected that next month will see the full return of construction, the reopening of personal services such as hairdressers and barbers, as well as the phased return of non-essential retail.
The resumption of religious services and the reopening of museums, galleries and libraries is also expected next month.
It is anticipated that the Government will also set out plans for June and July when ministers make a decision at Cabinet on Thursday.
I think we've learned outdoors is safer so that will be the defining [factor], not whether or not you're having chicken nuggets on top of it
Speaking at the launch of a community scheme aimed at reducing the number of bikes going to landfill, Mr Ryan described the requirement of having a €9 “substantial” meal when purchasing alcohol on licensed premises as a “false division”.
It meant that pubs that do not serve food were not able to open their doors last summer as opposed to those pubs that do serve food.
The country’s so-called “wet pubs” have been closed since March last year.
“We don’t want all those systems where you have to, people get a certain meal, it was a false division,” he added.
“I think it will start outdoors because it’ll be much safer and I don’t think that it’ll be divided between food or not, outdoors versus indoors will be the main difference.”
Asked whether the €9 meal requirement will be scrapped, Mr Ryan said: “I think we’ve learned outdoors is safer so that will be the defining [factor], not whether or not you’re having chicken nuggets on top of it.”
Mr Ryan also said he expected indoor hospitality to resume “more the middle of summer”.
He also said that with the vaccine rollout ramping up he believes there is an opportunity to start opening up the country more widely, including the aviation sector.
International travel will be possible this summer without the need for quarantining once people have their Covid-19 vaccine.
“I met the aviation industry last week, and said what we don’t want to do is false promises and give false sense of dates. But with the vaccinations increasing that will increase the ability of people to travel and come in.
“It’s not weeks away, but it’s not much more than a few months away in my mind in terms of getting aviation back.”
But he cautioned that it will “take time”.
“It is not an immediate thing,” he said. “We still have to be careful. We’ve to watch what’s happening in India. The cases around the world have never been higher.
“We’ve to be careful but what gives us hope is the vaccination sector as well as others.”