Increased supports vital as pubs now face prospect of being closed for a full year – VFI

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The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) says the Government decision to close pubs serving food along with restaurants on Christmas Eve brings closer the probability that pubs will remain shut past 15th March 2021, the one year anniversary of when the trade first closed. The VFI says its members and their staff will require a comprehensive new package of supports if the trade is to survive until restrictions are lifted.

The original plan to lockdown the country for six weeks until early December, so, in the words of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, the country could have a “meaningful” Christmas now lies in tatters. The hospitality sector was prevented from even making it to St Stephen’s Day.

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben says: “Once again the hospitality sector has been treated in appalling fashion with little notice about this closure, which will result in huge costs for our members who have to dump expensive stock. There is also the equally important issue of staff who now face another extended period on the PUP. Many staff only returned to work because they were promised pubs serving food would remain open into January.

“Our members who were allowed reopen for under three weeks must now reapply for the CRSS but at this stage, with little prospect of a full reopening in the short-term, we are calling for the CRSS to be increased for all pubs to 30% of 2019 turnover. Government must understand its decisions are decimating our trade so the supports on offer have to recognise that fact.

“We need clear communications from Government about how our members will be allowed resume trading. The good news is vaccines will end the pandemic but how and when will that happen? There is zero clarity about what level of vaccine coverage we require before restrictions will be lifted. The longer the crisis continues the less confidence our members have that Government has any sort of plan to get pubs open. Publicans urgently require a timeline because right now they’re completely in the dark, which is having a massive impact on people’s mental health.

“The overwhelming message we get from our members is ‘just tell us the plan for getting open’. They want information about the way forward. Right now, there is a total absence of clarity.

“It’s hard to believe but Ireland’s pub sector is ending 2020 in a worse position than it was back in March when the virus first appeared,” concludes Mr Cribben.

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