Partial reopening of pubs brings opportunity and responsibility, say Vintners

The partial opening of the country’s pubs will enable publicans to start rebuilding their businesses after three months of enforced closure, but will also introduce an onerous  responsibility on them to ensure new health guidelines are properly enforced, says the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI).

From Monday 29th June, pubs serving food are allowed trade and sell alcohol so long as a meal worth €9 is also served. The Guidelines for Reopening Pubs, published by Failte Ireland in conjunction with the HSA, HSE and NPHET, outline a series of measures publicans must implement to ensure the safety of both the public and staff.

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, says: “After being the first sector to close due to the Coronavirus threat in mid-March, we welcome this opportunity for pubs serving food to recommence trading. There is a pent-up public demand to return to the pub, mixed with some natural anxiety, but we’re hopeful the considerable time and money spent by publicans ensuring their premises are as safe as possible will reassure the public that hospitality remains at the heart of our pubs.

“While the introduction of the one-metre distancing rule will make a substantial difference to our members’ ability to trade, there remains many challenges within the guidelines for publicans to surmount. The 105-minute ‘sitting time’, for instance, is a directive our members must implement but when it comes to policing the rule they are left to their own devices.

“What’s very clear at this early stage is that publicans, staff and customers will have to work together to make the reopening a success. Technically, the guidelines are not law but the HSA has the power to close premises while any publican flouting the guidelines could encounter difficulties when it comes to renewing their pub licence in September,” adds Mr Cribben.

While there will be considerable interest this week as some outlets reopen, most pubs will remain closed until 20th July.

“It’s important to remember that the majority of pubs are not opening on 29th June, in fact more than 60% of our members will remain closed until phase four in three weeks’ time. There will be huge scrutiny of the pub trade in the interim, probably to a greater extent than any other sector reopening in phase three. Publicans and their customers are now on a steep learning curve where mutual respect will be crucial,” concludes the VFI Chief Executive.