The restaurant industry believes it has been given the green light to host parties of up to 200 people outdoors, in the wake of controversy involving a hotel event hosted by Katherine Zappone.
The 50-person private outdoor function at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin was attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and scrutiny of the event prompted the Government to release a statement clarifying that organised gatherings of up to 200 people can be held outdoors under current Covid-19 restrictions.
The Government said it had received advice from the Attorney General that social, recreational, exercise, cultural, entertainment or community events of up to 200 people were permitted under regulations.
Events held in dwellings, wedding receptions, sporting events or training events are not allowed under regulations, it said.
Responding to the announcement, the chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said the hospitality sector was unaware that 200 people were permitted to attend outdoor gatherings within social settings until the release of the statement.
'It was news to our industry'
“It was news to our industry that we're now allowed up to 200 people for outdoor gatherings within social settings,” Adrian Cummins told Newstalk Breakfast.
“We didn't know that until yesterday, until the Attorney General made the announcement. We welcome the announcement, because it gives us extra capacity and extra revenue opportunity.”
Mr Cummins added that he was glad the guidelines had been updated, but that in the meantime the sector had lost a lot of business. “We've missed a huge amount of revenue within hospitality,” he said.
“We are disappointed that it took an event for 50 people to bring this announcement around and delivered to the industry.”
The Government now needed to look at the closing hours of 11.30pm for the industry immediately, to try and provide some sort of recourse for the loss of revenue over the last number of weeks, he said.
The Government is now under pressure to clarify the implications of the revised guidelines on open-air gatherings after it said certain outdoor activities with up to 200 people are permitted.
Opposition and Coalition figures criticised the apparent contradiction between the Government statement last night and its stance on events such as communions and confirmations.
Revised guidelines are now being drawn up by Fáilte Ireland, which said it would “provide clarity on the operation of outdoor events”.
I think somebody needs to say sorry to our industry that has been economically flattened since last March
Mr Cummins said current guidelines from Fáilte Ireland were not clear. “Nobody knew, and there was a lot of confusion over the last number of days. We have always been instructed to look at the Fáilte Ireland guidelines, but it wasn't there.”
This is the first time that the Attorney General had intervened with a clarification around the regulations since March of last year, he noted.
“There's a lot of businesses that have turned away a lot of business over the last number of weeks because they did not know, through the Fáilte Ireland guidelines, that they could have up to 200 people at an outdoor event.
“I think we need to move forward, I think Fáilte Ireland needs to correct the guidelines this morning — and I think somebody needs to say sorry to our industry that has been economically flattened since last March,” he said.