Coronavirus (Covid 19) – Information & Advice for VFI Members

The Department of Social Welfare have developed an emergency COVID payment, for employees who have been laid off due to Covid-19 details of which are available at this new website – www.gov.ie/deaspcovid19

The amount of  €350 will be paid weekly as part of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme (also available to self-employed publicans). It is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost their job due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be in place for 12 weeks.

There will be no increase for dependents (spouse or children).  The reason for this is to ensure that the emergency Covid-19 payment is paid to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  People will be reimbursed what they are due for dependents (Increase for Qualified Adult (IQA) or Increase for Qualified Child (IQC)) once the normal Jobseekers scheme application is processed. 

Laid-off staff, including students are asked to please download the application form from the Department’s website. There is no need to attend an Intreo office to request a form. Full information HERE 

You can access the form HERE

The new COVID-UP application form must be completed in full and signed by the claimant.

It should be FREE POSTED to the PO Box 12896 Dublin 1 (detailed on the form) or returned to any Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

Publicans 

Publicans, as self-employed persons, are entitled to same benefits as their staff. You can access the form for Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment HERE

With a public holiday having just passed and another due in two weeks here is an update on public holiday entitlements for employees.

Employees who are laid off are entitled to public holiday payment for 13 weeks after they have ceased working. This will impact Easter, May and June public holidays.  

Please consider the following Q&A:

Q: Is it still necessary to have worked 40 hours in previous five weeks (to be entitles to public holiday payment)? If so, does this refer to the last five weeks before layoff?

A: Calculations are based on the five weeks immediately preceding layoff.

 

Q: If entitled to a benefit how can this be paid when employee is claiming social welfare (i.e COVID Emergency payment) as you are not allowed to process any payroll for them or they will be cut off from benefit. Is it carried forward until they return to work?

A: Public holiday entitlements will be paid on either resumption of employment OR as part of final payment if made redundant

 

Q: What about employees not working but retained on payroll with the Revenue Wage Subsidy Scheme with or without top-up. Is the 40 hour requirement still applicable?

A: Although employees are not working they are still employed and as such are arguably entitled to benefit for Public Holiday. For full time employees who are on the wage subsidy and receiving full top up, if they were due to work the public holiday Monday, they aren’t required to work and they still get their normal pay.

Obviously, there are part time/casual staff who are not rostered for public holidays and hence the 1/5 of their normal working week calculation would apply.


Q: Why pay staff an additional benefit if they are already getting paid time off? 

A: Technically they are not on paid time off but are restricted by their employer, by virtue of the fact of a Governmental order, from attending work.

On 16th April, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said for incomes that are less than approximately €24,400 per year, the State will increase the subsidy available to employers from 70% to 85%.

For those employees with previous average net pay between €412 and €500 per week (equivalent to €24,400-€31,000), the subsidy will be up to €350 per week.

The aim of the scheme is to maximise staff retention and firm viability by maintaining the link between the employer and employee. There are 42,000 employers on the scheme, Minister Donohoe said. He said in the absence of a scheme there would be over a million people on the Live Register or in receipt of other forms of income support.

Full details of the changes to the Income Support Scheme HERE

For most staff, remaining on the Covid unemployment scheme where they receive €350 for the next 12 weeks may very well be the best option.

For publicans wishing to get more information on the Income Support Scheme, it’s run by Revenue who have an information page HERE

Revenue also has a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ HERE

One thing we are sure about is that staff who lost their jobs last week and applied for the COVID unemployment benefit can be re-employed and enter the new scheme so long as they don’t continue to claim the unemployment benefit.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has published an updated information notice for employers and employees, including Frequently Asked Questions and Answers (FAQs) on its website. You can access the updated info HERE

Wednesday 13th May

Revenue has confirmed the following about the suspended debt collection and the charging of interest on late payment for the January/February and March/April VAT periods and February, March and April PAYE (Employer) liabilities. (These arrangements are further extended to include May/June VAT and May and June PAYE (Employer) liabilities.)

On 2 May 2020, the Government announced that it will legislate to provide that Revenue will warehouse deferred tax debts associated with the Covid-19 crisis. The proposed scheme will involve the effective parking of these unpaid VAT and PAYE (Employer) tax debts, that arose from the Covid- 19 crisis, for a period of 12 months after a business resumes trading and the application of a lower interest rate of 3% per annum on the repayment of such ‘warehoused tax debts’ after that date.

The period covered by the arrangements is the duration of time during which the business was and is unable to trade, or was and is trading at a significantly reduced level, due to the Covid-19 related restrictions and includes two months after the business re-commences ‘normal’ trading.

There will be three periods in the scheme –

Period 1 – Covid-19 restricted trading phase: The relevant tax debts built up while the business is unable to trade or was subject to restricted trading, and debts for an additional two months after the business re-commences ‘normal’ trading, will be ‘ring-fenced’. There will be no collection of any of the debt in question during this period and no interest will apply, but the debt will have to have been quantified by the business through the filing of all the relevant returns for the restricted trading phase. If a best estimate return of liability has been made for any period, the correct return will have to be filed before the end of Period 1 to ensure that the debt benefits from the warehousing.

Period 2 – Zero interest phase: This will last for 12 months after the end of Period 1. During this period no interest will be charged on the debt built up in Period 1. Businesses must pay current tax liabilities as they arise.

Period 3 – Reduced interest phase: This will last from the end of Period 2 until the Covid-19 related debts built up in Period 1 are paid. A reduced interest rate of 3% per annum will be charged on the debt from Period 1. This compares to a rate of 10% per annum normally or otherwise due on overdue VAT and PAYE (Employer) liabilities.

Full details of the arrangements for debt warehousing will be published in legislation in due course. The VFI will be lobbying for a reduction in the 3% interest rate payable after the 12 month interest-free period.

 

Over the weekend the government published the Return to Work Safety Protocol, which is designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

You can access the document HERE

Measures set to be introduced include employers having to ensure their employees answer a survey before they return to work, and confirm whether or not they have Covid-19 symptoms or if they have been in contact with someone displaying symptoms. Workers will also have to undertake induction training to ensure they are up to speed with public health advice. Workplaces will also have to appoint at least one worker representative who will work with the employer to ensure measures are being strictly adhered to.

It’s important to remember the measures in the Return to Work Safety Protocol are separate to the guidelines for social distancing in pubs due to be published by the Department of Health.

Once we have access to both documents we will undertake a review and commence plans to introduce training programmes/videos for members. We believe we may be able to take steps that will considerably simplify compliance but compliance will be imperative to have a defence against any subsequent claim.

Insurance agreement 

The majority of main insurance companies in Ireland have agreed to reduce premiums and maintain cover for unoccupied premises after extensive lobbying from the VFI and Alliance for Insurance Reform.

After making strenuous representations to the Department of Finance about the insurance sector’s refusal to accept VFI members’ business interruptions claims, the Department has secured an agreement with most of Insurance Ireland’s members to ensure they take a more customer focussed approach when dealing with businesses.

The outcome of this engagement is an agreement from most of the key insurers in the Irish market – namely Allianz, AIG, AXA, FBD, RSA, Liberty Insurance, Travelers Insurance and Zurich – that they will apply the following common measures which will be available to their business customers:

Forbearance

  • Insurers will reduce premiums for business customers to reflect reduced level of exposure as a result of Covid-19 restrictions for Employer Liability/ Public Liability and Commercial Motor.
  • Insurers will allow up to 28 days after renewal for payment.

Business Premises

  • Insurers will maintain cover for unoccupied commercial buildings/ premises not in use due to Covid-19 restriction (for a maximum of 90 days). Appropriate supervision and security of the premises is required.
  • Insurers will support requests for a change of property use during the crisis.

NB: Customers wishing to avail of this offer should contact their insurers (or brokers) directly

 

Arthur Cox & Co

We have been engaging, together with the LVA, with Arthur Cox & Co in respect of the insurance issue. To view a detailed click HERE

Owens McCarthy

As the insurance sector continues to refuse to honour business interruption cover claimed as a result of Covid-19, a professional loss assessor working on your behalf has never been more important.

The VFI is happy to endorse the work of leading assessors, Owens McCarthy, who have represented many publicans over the years with great success.

While there are many people out there purporting to be experts, only trained and professional individuals working in the claims sector can give a valued opinion. That’s where Owens McCarthy comes in.

They offer a professional service within a large organisation that can handle a significant number of VFI member queries. While there are other loss assessors out there, dealing with Owens McCarthy will mean you receive their expertise gained from working on other VFI member policies. There is strength in numbers.

While this is not a partnership with the VFI, we strongly recommend you engage a loss assessor with an excellent track record. Owens McCarthy have spoken at VFI seminars in the past and we have no hesitation in recommending their service. They are happy to work for members on the basis of results achieved rather than upfront payments.

Visit the website at WWW.OWENSMCCARTHY.COM or contact them on 1890 293 949.

Mortgage break 

It appears likely the three-month mortgage break currently available will be extended to six months. The Irish Times is reporting that at present, customers who have been hit financially by the pandemic, can apply to their lender for a three-month break in their payments, without being classified as in arrears. To date, some 45,000 payment breaks have been agreed between lenders and borrowers, amounting to about 5 per cent of all home loans in the market.

Given the unprecedented nature of the economic lockdown, the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland said it would be “utterly unfair” for a borrower to be deemed to be in default with their mortgage after their three-month payments break had expired, noting that it would have implications for a borrower’s credit rating and would also impose additional capital requirements on banks because the loans would be classified as non-performing.

Banks

AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, Permanent tsb and Ulster Bank have announced they are introducing measures to help businesses and personal customers whose circumstances have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

The measures are as follows:

  1. Implement a payment break up to three months for business and personal customers affected by Covid-19, to be followed by ongoing reviews depending on the scale and extent of the situation. Customers wishing to avail of a payment break should contact their respective bank.
  2. The banks agree there is a need for a simplified application process to make it as easy as possible for businesses and personal customers impacted by Covid-19 to receive support from their banks.  We are working with all member banks to achieve this.
  3. The banks want to ensure that any Covid-19 application for a payment break and further reviews will not adversely impact the customer’s credit record, and the banks reporting of these facilities. Banks want to avoid this and are meeting with the Central Bank of Ireland to urgently achieve a solution in this regard.
  4. Banks will also defer court proceedings for three months.
  5. The banking system stands ready to provide working capital support.
  6. We have had initial discussions with Credit Servicing Firms and with those non-bank lenders who provide mortgages. Both the Credit Servicing Firms and non-bank lenders have issues which we need to address with the Central Bank of Ireland, but both are committed to working with the Government and industry to provide the flexibility that people need right now.

We have created a spreadsheet for analysing financial situation/cash flow over coming months to download click HERE

A new loan scheme from was launched that may be of interest to some members. It is available from Bank of Ireland and AIB and possibly others. The SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme is offered in partnership with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and is supported by the Innovfin SME Guarantee Facility, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments.

The scheme will operate from 26 March 2020 until 31 March 2021 or until the scheme has been fully subscribed. The maximum interest rate is 4%, which considering some members are being quoted 6.9% from other institutions is quite good. We gather there may be a limit on the amount available under the scheme so early application may be important.

To view SBCI Covid-19 working capital loan scheme brochure click HERE

A gentle reminder to VFI member that if you’re looking for some type of loan or mortgage holiday you will need to contact your bank directly. They will not approach you! Here’s Ulster Bank’s Covid-19 support page HERE

On moratoriums, Bank of Ireland says:

“Qualifying customers will not make their capital & Interest loan repayments for the next three months after they have been approved for the moratorium. For all loans, whether they are on a variable rate (≤12 months) or a longer term fixed rate (>12 months), the interest will continue to accrue on the loan and the term of the loan will be extended upon maturity of the moratorium. In the case of a fixed rate loan, it will mean the fixed rate will last for a period of three months longer than originally anticipated as this will ensure the loan repayments remain the same upon expiry of this 3 month moratorium”

Charges for returned Direct Debits

Refunds for these can be requested through local branch manager or relationship manager.

These are done on a case by case basis.

  • Direct Debit block account to all Direct Debit payments click HERE
  • Direct Debit reactivate all direct debits on your account click HERE
  • Direct Debit Refund click HERE
  • Direct Debits 4-1005R refuse next Specific DD click HERE

The forms must be filled in and sent to the local branch manager or relationship manager.

Bank charges

After extensive contact with Bank of Ireland, we received the following details last night about a deferral of bank charges:

“Business customers previously received notification that transaction fees for business current accounts for December, January and February were due to be applied to their accounts on March 20th. However, for businesses where cash flow has been temporarily impacted by COVID-19, we are offering a deferral of these fees.

This means that the fees that have been applied to business customer’s accounts on March 20th will be refunded to customers for the deferred period where they apply for this and are impacted by COVID-19.

To apply for this deferral, download application form HERE

Complete the form then email it to [email protected]

These fees will remain payable by you and will be charged to your Business Current Account in three equal monthly tranches on 21st September, 21st October and 20th November 2020.

The deferral of the fees only applies to the quarterly current account fees applied on the 20th of March 2020 for ROI account holders only.

Business On Line fees and charges and any interest payable on the Business Current Account will continue to be applied and paid.

Over the past week there have been significant issues with AIB in respect of mortgages and repayments. Their line was that after the moratorium there will be an increase in monthly payments as the term cannot be extended. This is in sharp contrast to Bank of Ireland and others.

Our Chief Executive Padraig Cribben has been in constant contact with AIB, emphasising the need for a resolution on this matter. We received the following from AIB this morning:

“I can confirm AIB is offering a three month payment break for customers impacted by covid-19. We have created a simple online form which customers can fill in for a call back. It can be found HERE

For some customers who are experiencing financial difficulties over and above Covid-19 related impacts, a different solution may be more appropriate and we will talk customers through this on a case by case basis.

Our first priority was to get both a three-month moratorium in place and working capital support as soon as possible. The moratorium scheme agreed by all banks with the Minister sees accrued interest factored into monthly repayments following the payment break as per the message on our website. In conjunction with this three-month payment break we are working on new solutions based on feedback from customers. We ask our customers to bear with us while we work on implementing further solutions.

When SME customers apply for a moratorium on our finance and leasing products, interest accrues, the term will be extended, and repayments will remain the same at the end of the moratorium period.”

It’s important to remember that irrespective of who you bank with, these new deals are done on an individual basis and the onus is on members to contact the bank.

While this is another good outcome it is a small step in where we will need to get with banks and others.

Bank Charges

After spending a considerable amount of time yesterday pursuing AIB about the issue of bank charges, this morning we received confirmation the bank is to defer SME bank charges (but not for personal accounts). The bank said:

“In order to assist SME customers whose businesses are impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, AIB will shortly be making an option available to allow them to defer the maintenance and transaction fees applied to their accounts on March 31st 2020.These fees can be applied in Q3 2020 and spread equally over September, October and November. As this is a new process for customers we are making relevant changes to our systems and the application process will be made available on our website in the coming days.”

So, they agreed to defer but it will take a few days to set up the system and you must apply to be part of the scheme.

 

Bank Fees Deferral

AIB has finally established an online mechanism for business owners to apply for a deferral of bank fees.

Click HERE – then click, “Deferral of Maintenance Fees”, then click the hyperlink “here” under the “How to Apply” section. This will bring you to a form where you input the accounts that have had fees applied along with your contact details. The application will be processed and the deferral will then be put in place

 

A reminder to VFI members that if you’re looking for some type of loan or mortgage holiday you will need to contact your bank directly. They will not approach you! Here’s Ulster Bank’s Covid-19 support page HERE

The VFI has received confirmation from government that commercial rates for pubs are to be abolished for the duration of the closure caused by Covid-19. This extremely welcome news comes after VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben contacted Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue and Minister for State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John Paul Phelan about the matter.

In an email to Padraig, the Minister for State wrote: “There’s a lot more detail to be worked out over the coming weeks, but I can assure you that the government has no intention of pursuing commercial rates to be paid for the period Pubs have been asked to close on public health grounds”.

Commercial rates are one of the biggest outgoings for most publicans, so tonight’s news will be of huge relief to members.

 

Following the confirmation we received two weeks ago that commercial rates for pubs are to abolished for the duration of the crisis, you still must engage with your local authority about this issue.

You should write to your local authority requesting a derogation from rates based on the fact that Minister for State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John Paul Phelan, wrote to the VFI stating: “There’s a lot more detail to be worked out….over the coming weeks but I can assure you that the government has no intention of pursuing commercial rates to be paid for the period Pubs have been asked to close on public health grounds”.

 

Please take the necessary precautions to secure your premises during this enforced closure. Because pubs are closed for a prolonged period of time all reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that good crime prevention measures are in place. In particular, alarms should be armed and all doors and windows fully secured and locked. No cash should be retained on the premises and other goods such as cigarettes, spirits and electrical items of high value should be locked away securely. It is advised that regular checks are carried out on the premises and any anomalies found or detected should be reported as necessary.

Please be assured that the Gardaí will be maintaining a full patrolling system and any suspicious activity in the vicinity of your premises should be immediately reported to your local station. Stay Safe.

Something you may have forgotten but on top of the many challenges you already face, allowing drain networks and connected Grease Traps to dry out during this prolonged period of inactivity will cause problems. This distinct possibility can be averted by the few simple measures outlined below from fog.ie:

With the current enforced closure in place we are offering Publicans some tips, for your staff to carry out during this period, so as to avoid potential problems when you eventually reopen:

1) Regularly run the taps feeding to the Grease Trap several times per week during the current closure.

2) If you already use an approved Dosing Programme reduce to a minimum, but do not fully eliminate, dosing of the Grease Trap. 

By taking the above measures you can then keep your drain lines flowing/ prevent anaerobic (smelly) conditions & blockages from forming plus avoiding unwarranted costs of a Pump Out being needed when the system restarts.

Linked Finance (A VFI partner) understands the pressures the hospitality and pubs sector is facing as it plays its part in delaying the spread of COVID-19. “To show our support, we have applied a two month payment break to all restaurants with a live Linked Finance loan. This applies immediately to loans with repayment dates after 20th March. For those with repayment dates before 20th March, the break applies to the next two payments. Borrowers do not need to do anything to avail of this.

If borrowers have any further questions about the loans please email us at [email protected] This mailbox is fully staffed and we will reply as soon as possible

You have probably received correspondence from suppliers, outlining how they plan to handle the crisis from their end. In case you haven’t read any of the letters, there are copies available in our Members area HERE

Diageo scheme

The Diageo scheme to support bar staff is now open. Publicans should visit https://www.mydiageo.com/s/login/ to process applications on behalf of their staff.

For information about the Diageo scheme click HERE

Wednesday 22nd April – A note from Diageo on its voucher scheme for pub staff:

“We have not started to distribute the vouchers just yet. Once the fund closed, we had to spend a little more time than planned in terms of tidying up the application requests to ensure we have captured everyone applications correctly.

“There is no exact date of distribution just yet, however we’re hopeful that by the end of this week we can hand the full list of successful applicants to our agency partner who is handling the logistics of the vouchers for them to begin the process.”

The national housing charity Threshold, the only specialist information, advice and advocacy service for people renting, recently announced the establishment of a dedicated freephone helpline to support workers who may be struggling to pay their rent or mortgage. The service is being financed as part of the €1.5 million Guinness Fund announced recently. It will provide tailored advice to those worried about their ability to pay rent as a result of the current situation. You can read more about the service HERE

Heineken

Heineken has issued a convenient Covid-19 guide publicans can use during the shutdown called “Simple steps you can take in your premises”. You can access the PDF HERE

 

Update- Sky has confirmed that all Sky Business venues will not be charged for their Sky Sports service from 14th March until a live sport schedule returns. 

After announcing they were suspending charges for the duration of the crisis, some Sky direct debits were processed last week, resulting in money being debited from members’ accounts. The following is Sky’s response to the VFI:

“Our ROI customers will get emails from tomorrow morning notifying them that changes have been reflected to their account – i.e their account has been credited.

Credit notes will drop in the post over the next few days (postal services allowing). They wouldn’t have received notification yet as we’ve only been physically able to release notifications this morning.

If they were charged for sports services past 14th March (this happened because we weren’t in a position to stop all direct debits at such short notice) they will have a credit on their account which they can ask for a refund on.

If your member is on a Pubs ROI agreement, the discount was applied on their account as from last night, they can call this number 0818 719 883 to request a refund.

VFI members should call our customer service team to discuss their account and find out the status of the credit. They can do this on the number listed above.”

Sky have informed business customers they are suspending ALL charges until pubs are allowed reopen.

According to Sky: “We recently announced that from 14 March we will not be charging for Sky Sports services. The situation has progressed rapidly since then and doing what we can to help our Sky Business customers in these uncertain times is very important to us. Therefore, from 24 March we will not be charging for Sky Entertainment or Sky Cinema services for premises that are currently unable to open due to COVID-19 government restrictions or who operate venues supporting key workers.

“There is no need for you to take any action at this time, we will make the changes to your account and you will receive an updated invoice from us which will detail your adjusted Sky price. If you have paid in advance for any Sky Sports, Entertainment or Cinema services, that are now being offered without a charge, a credit will automatically be applied to your account.”

Sky also says that its system is set up to issue bills but they will now be zero. Any publican who paid for Sports post 14th March will be issued with a credit to their account. We assume this will be the same scenario for entertainment packages post 24th March.

Bottom line – if you paid for any of the above you will receive a credit to your account and will not be further charged for duration of crisis.

They would like to offer support to pubs to help them out in this difficult time. They would be prepared to defer payments on a case by case basis rather than instituting a blanket freeze on payments.

Those members paying for live performances please advise IMRO this is no longer the case. You will need to do this in writing.

The email address is [email protected]

IMRO are taking the following to assist members:

– A DD moratorium for all government enforced closures and voluntary closures (where licensees self declares the closure) that will include all your members to 30th April with the situation to be reviewed and agreed with you again at that point

– Credit notes issued to all premises that have had government enforced closures and voluntary closures (where licensees self declares the closure) up to 30th April with the situation to be reviewed and agreed with you again at that point. Credit notes will be issued once the pubs have re-opened

– We are requesting that rather than cancel direct debits, licensees leave the direct debits in place and the moratorium above will apply

– We also request that, where possible, your members use the IMRO Customer portal HERE

“We (IMRO) are not in a position to refund VFI members for the DD taken last week due to distribution commitments made to IMRO members. The majority of the IMRO membership is somewhat similar to VFI members in that their ability to earn has also been closed down with no possibility to perform in pubs, clubs and hotel bars.

“We will work with you and your members as much as we possibly can through this period and I wish you and your members all the very best during this unprecedented extraordinarily difficult time for them.”

As they cannot refund the dd taken out recently we are working on having a moratorium on the first month back in action as a replacement.

Credit Notes

IMRO will be issuing credit notes to VFI members once the closure orders have been lifted. IMRO strongly advise that all customers sign up for IMRO’s self-service portal. It is the easiest and fastest way to obtain your credit note. Register your account now at the following link HERE

 

Monday 11th May Update 

Due to the current measures, IMRO will be extending the duration of credit notes that will be made available to customers, as well as the direct debit payment holiday until the 31st of May 2020.

In order to obtain a credit note and manage your account online, IMRO request that all customers sign-up to the IMRO Self-Service Licensing portal. Please find the registration link: HERE

This will all be reviewed again before the end of May and a decision on June payments will be taken considering the circumstances at that time. If you require any further information on IMRO’s COVID-19 procedure, please find the customer FAQ HERE

BOC has published a guide for VFI members to use if you need to isolate the gas system. You can access the document HERE

BOC also has an Covid-19 section on its website HERE

We’ve received general guidelines (see below) from Ecocool in respect of equipment not being utilised during shut down. Best practice is to follow manufacturers/ supplier/ refrigeration contractors and relevant breweries for specific instruction but this fact sheet is a handy reference tool. 

On a related health note, please remember to run your taps a few times a week to prevent water stagnation.

To download a printable version of the following click HERE

The following are some general Guidelines received from Ecocool in respect of Equipment not being utilised during shut down.

Best practice is to follow manufacturers/ supplier/ refrigeration contractors and relevant breweries for specific instruction.

Breweries should be contacted for advice on best practice on line cleaning. Your local refrigeration contractor should be engaged to check equipment in advance of reopening to ensure all equipment is at peak performance.

How to Clean Your Bottle Cooler & Turn Off

  1. Before you begin – ensure your hands and arms are clean to prevent any bacteria entering the cooler. Ensure the cooler is empty.
  2. Power off the cooler at the mains.
  3. Spray both the shelves and the interior sides with appropriate cleaning fluid, then rinse thoroughly. Use a clean cloth to dry.
  4. Spray appropriate cleaning fluid on the hinges and the door runners and wipe clean. These areas are bacteria prone and can cause doors to jam.
  5. Leave doors open to allow air to freely flow through the cooler while powered down.

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions

 

How to Clean an Ice Maker

Ice makers’ maintenance requirements will vary from vendor to vendor, but most ice machines follow a similar overall process. Please consult with your machine’s manual for the appropriate procedure, but here are some general steps to clean most ice makers.

  1. Remove all ice from the bin or dispenser.All ice must be removed during the cleaning and sanitizing cycles. To remove the ice, follow one of the methods below:
  • Press the power switch at the end of the a harvest cycle after ice falls from the evaporators
  • Press the power switch and allow the ice to completely melt
  1. Press the “clean” or “wash” button if available.Water will flow through the water dump valve and down the drain. Wait until the water trough refills and the display indicates to add chemicals. This typically takes at least 1 minute.
  2. Add the recommended amount of ice machine cleanerper your manual.
  3. Wait until the clean cycle is complete. This will typically take at least 20 minutes. After the cycle is complete, disconnect power to the ice machine (and the dispenser if applicable).

     

  4. Remove any internal ice machine components for cleaning.For safe and proper removal, refer to your machine’s manual. Once all parts have been removed, continue to the next step.
  5. Mix a solution of cleaner and lukewarm water.Refer to your machine’s manual for an appropriate amount of solution. A general water to cleaner ratio is 1 litre of water to 125ml of cleaner. Depending on the amount of mineral build up, you may need to use additional cleaner.

     

  6. Use half of the water and cleaner mixture to clean all componentsand parts you’ve removed. Most solutions will start to foam once they come in contact with lime, scale, and mineral deposits. Once the foaming stops, use a soft-bristle nylon brush, sponge, or cloth to carefully clean all parts and then rinse with clean water.
  7. Use the other half of the water and cleaner mixture to clean all food zone surfacesof the ice machine and bin or dispenser. Use a nylon brush or cloth to thoroughly clean the following ice machine areas: side walls, base (area above the trough), evaporator plastic parts (top, bottom, sides), and the bin or dispenser.

     

  8. Rinse all areas with clean water.This will help remove chemicals to prevent ice from becoming contaminated.

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions

Glasswashers/Dishwashers

  1.  Use  a good quality detergent to clean out machine by running 4 cycles
  2. Clean inside with a  small brush to get at accrued dirt 
  3. Leave door open and then repeat the process on re-use of machine.
  4. Also advisable to get local service provider to give a cursory service before re-using.

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions

Beer Cooling Systems

Cold room / Ice Bank systems:

  • Turn off Ice Bank and Cold room systems at point of power supply.
  • Advisable to clean beer lines and leave dry until further use) need Brewery advice on this point)

Always follow manufacturer’s instruction

 

LANCER Glycol Systems 

  • Turn off External compressor/compressors at point of power supply
  • Turn off LANCER Glycol tank at power supply
  • Turn off Chiller plates at controller under bar counter
  • Advisable to clean beer lines and leave dry until further use (need Brewery advice on this point)
  • If Bottle coolers on system, please turn off also
  • If Food cold rooms on system, please empty all food or call ECOCOOL for advice if you wish to continue to use the Food room.

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions

Heat Pump / Air Con Systems

  • Turn off at Power Supply
  • Clean Filters if possible
  • Get serviced on return to action, incl. external compressor units

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions

Training and advice during Covid-19 crisis

There are a number of courses available to VFI members at present that may be of benefit to your business. There is also free guidance and advice about Covid-19 that is well worth checking out.

Details of courses and advice as follows:

Preparing SME Managers to Recover & Succeed

Starting Date – 6th April 2020

Griffith College is inviting owners and managers of small business to enrol in a series of FREE online workshops to equip you with the necessary management skills, tools and techniques to survive and recover in a post – Covid19 – environment. Topics covered over this ten-part Free series include:

  • Topic 1:  Stronger together – the tactical toolkit
  • Topic 2: Crisis Communication for internal and external audiences
  • Topic 3: Analysis and Planning – evidence based decision making   
  • Topic 4: The power of ‘future’ – building a new reality for Irish SMEs
  • Topic 5: Optimising your supply chain and operations for smarter business 
  • Topic 6: Financial Management in Uncertainty
  • Topic 7: Change Management and Innovation– new challenges bring new opportunities
  • Topic 8: Reconnecting – Marketing to your audience post Covid-19  
  • Topic 9: Demystifying the Tax implications of COVID-19   
  • Topic 10: Leadership and Motivation – empower your people, achieve your goals

Register for the FREE Online Series

To ensure you are updated with all the relevant information for this FREE online workshop series you must complete the online registration. Only registered participants will receive integral and valuable resources throughout the series as well as helpful reminders for when class times start.

Register Online Here


SEAI Energy Training Academy

SEAI has opened the FREE online energy training platform The SEAI Energy Academy – to the public. You can access modules and courses on various aspects of energy, efficiency and renewables, in addition to short energy courses developed specifically for your business sector. The modules will take approximately 15 minutes to complete and can be done on mobile and computer.

They will continue to add new modules, resources and courses to the platform over the coming weeks and months so if you don’t find what you are looking for immediately, keep coming back.

Modules available right now include:

  • The Home Energy Challenge
  • Energy and Climate Change
  • Business Energy Efficiency
  • Office Energy Efficiency
  • Behavioural Change
  • Lighting Efficiency – Basic and Advanced (Design)

You can access the course through the SEAI Website, or directly on www.seaienergyacademy.ie

The SEAI really hope that you find this training useful and informative and look forward to working with you to reduce your energy impact in future.

NSAI Retail Protection and Improvement Guide now available 

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has issued the following free guide for retail businesses. It consolidates advice from National and European policymakers on keeping employees and customers safe during this time of emergency. While not specifically for the Hospitality trade we are sure that you will find many areas of interest in it.

To access please click HERE  

Your Local Enterprise Office

Members should be aware that your Local Enterprise Office offers a range of services to businesses. These services may vary from county to county depending on local needs. The following is a sample of the range of services available at some of the county LEO offices:

How Can Your Local Enterprise Office Help You?

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) serves as a first stop shop to providing support and services to start, grow and develop micro businesses.

Some supports include:

  • Covid19 Business Support
  • Covid19 Opportunity Webinar For Food Industry
  • Business Continuity Voucher (Worth €2,500 towards third party consultancy)
  • Covid19 Business Loan from Microfinance Ireland
  • Business Information and advice
  • Training Programmes and Events
  • Mentoring
  • Feasibility, Priming and Business Expansion Grants
  • Trading Online Vouchers
  • Networking

To access your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) just google the name of your county followed by LEO e.g.  Meath LEO or Cork LEO.

Failte Ireland Supports

In response to the COVID-19 crisis and the impact it is having on the tourism sector, Failte Ireland have targeting their business supports to respond to the most urgent challenges and threats tourism businesses are now facing. All of these supports can be accessed by clicking on the following:

Business Liquidy

HR Risk

Managing Temporary Closure

Temporary Layoffs and Redundancies

Safeguard Future Revenues 

Jump Starting Sales

Operational Guidance

Government Supports

Brand and Reputation

Employee Wellbeing

These customised supports will assist you and your team to navigate your business through these extremely challenging times and will be continuously updated as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

Fáilte Ireland will focus all of our resources in helping to rebuild the industry and the vital contributions it makes to Irish society.

 

The VFI is working hard to improve the offer to publicans/small businesses. At the very least, we’re seeking a grant similar to the one available in the UK where every small business will receive a £10,000 grant to assist its survival over the coming weeks.

To view the list of current government supports click HERE

Fáilte Ireland has put together an informative Covid-19 business support section packed full of advice about a range of issues, including business liquidity, managing temporary closure and accessing government supports.

Click HERE to access the site.

I Am Here Programme

Fáilte Ireland, in partnership with PulseLearning, is offering the I Am Here: Rapid Response service to the Irish tourism industry. This is a programme of mental health support and learning within the workplace and beyond to empower employers and employees to have courageous conversations about mental health.

I Am Here recognises that people in your business want to connect with their fellow team members to get the help or support they may need, especially during times of crisis. This programme enables your team members to signpost existing services to those who need it.

To access this service, visit I Am Here 

Employee Assistance Programme: Counselling and support

To provide more formal supports to those who need it, Fáilte Ireland has partnered with Inspire Workplaces to offer free and confidential access to an Employee Assistance Programme. This is available widely to business owners, employees and people who are self-employed in the industry.

Inspire Workplaces offers wellbeing supports and counselling services as well as advice on financial concerns and legal issues, and has a wealth of experience of supporting organisations and employees at times of crisis across Ireland.

Through a Freephone Helpline, offered 24/7/365, businesses and employees can access this full range of services:

  • Freephone Helpline on 1800 201346: You will need to quote Fáilte Ireland when accessing the service to ensure the services are provided to you free of charge.
  • Visit www.inspiresupporthub.org and on the homepage, click the purple ‘Sign Up’ icon, top right. Where prompted, enter your company PIN, which is unique to Fáilte Ireland: COFIHUB!

 Employee Wellbeing supports 

Fáilte Ireland’s suite of Employee Wellbeing supports aims to help the industry through this difficult time, on both a professional and personal level. “As you know, business owners, employees and people who are self-employed are facing uncertainty about the future of their jobs and businesses. Times like this can naturally cause significant anxiousness and worry. We know that the impact this crisis is having on the mental health and wellbeing of employees is an area of significant concern for employers, with many not currently having the resources to properly engage and help employees. 

There are a number of supports available, including a full Employee Assistance Programme offering counselling, financial and legal advice, which is available to the whole industry. The supports can be accessed HERE

The Irish Foodservice Suppliers Alliance was on to us to remind VFI members to sit down and engage with some of the 200 foodservice suppliers they represent. These are longstanding relationships and the IFSA is politely requesting that solutions can only be found when both parties sit down and discuss options.

Irish Water’s new non-domestic tariff framework for business customers is to be deferred as a result of the current Covid 19 emergency. The new framework which supports a new national set of charges was due to come into effect on 1 May 2020, with customers due to receive communications about these changes in the coming weeks. This decision has been taken by Irish Water with the support of our economic regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 

Irish Water is encouraging businesses to still visit www.water.ie where they can assess the impact of the new charges on their bill using our online calculator tool and case studies.  Further information including detailed Q&A is also available online or by visiting www.cru.ie.

Customers who may be experiencing billing or payment difficulties can contact the dedicated business team on 1850 778 778.

Maintaining Pub hygiene during the closure

To download a printable version of the following click HERE

The following feature is a good guide to keeping your pub clean and hygienic during the closure.

As the Covid-19 lockdown continues and our city, town and village pubs remain closed for business, it’s worth considering the safety steps you can take to make sure your venue will be ready to go when the Government gives the green light for trade to resume as normal.

How you close your pubs down and how you carry out simple maintenance checks will put you in a great position to open safely when the restrictions are finally lifted. 

For many publicans, there is usually someone living on-site, so maintaining compliance is possible while heeding current Government advice to stay at home.  

Following these simple steps will help make sure that you can reopen quickly when the time is right:

Water supply

  • Turn off hot water to save money and help prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria
  • Where possible, continue weekly water checks because stagnant water is a breeding ground for legionnaires’ disease. Legionella can cause a potentially fatal type of pneumonia and is contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets containing the bacteria
  • Visit the site weekly to flush taps through
  • If you have accommodation, where possible, remove shower heads or place in the shower or bath basin and run taps and outlets regularly during the closure period 

Pest management

  • As we head into the warmer summer months, flies can be real pests if left unchecked, so we advise electric fly killers are left switched on  
  • We also recommend that you plug sinks to prevent flies from breeding and that U-bends are cleaned out 
  • Many venues may have dried goods left on-site that could attract pests – ensure these are stored in locations where pests are less likely to access them and store any open goods in resealable pest-proof containers
  • Leave bait boxes in place and carry out any recommended pest proofing works to prevent pest entry

Bar hygiene

  • You will probably have cleaned down your bar dispensers, bottles and bar surfaces on closure but make sure your optics are covered and they aren’t sticky because any residue will attract fruit flies
  • Remove spirits from bars and make sure the lids are firmly on to prevent alcohol loss

General hygiene

  • You will have given the venue a thorough clean before closing the doors but keeping on top of hygiene while shut is important
  • It is easy to miss something, so systematically check everywhere is clean and left as it should, for example:
    • Dishwashers​ – they should be empty and washer arms dismantled to remove risks of stagnant water
    • Fridges​ – these will have been emptied, cleaned and switched off, but have the doors been left ajar?
    • Cleaning​ – continue to clean and sanitise all surfaces and areas during closure, including floors, cupboards and underneath and behind equipment because this will mean your pub is sparkling and ready to open without delay
    • Check ‘best before’ dates​ – make sure that any foods remaining on-site, especially dried goods, have been correctly labelled with original manufacturer usage instructions and clearly show the ‘best before’ date. Monitor ‘best before’ dates on foods and drinks, and remove anything that becomes out of date during the period

Fire and security

  • Periodically check your fire detection system, intruder alarm and CCTV are working
  • Many employees will have either been furloughed or, in some cases, made redundant so review your list of key holders and change the alarm code and security locks if necessary

Maintaining records 

  • In addition to preserving a record of when your premises closed and the date of closure, maintaining your records for when the local authority officer calls is advisable during this period, for example:
  • Check and record freezer temperatures if these contain foods
  • Pest checks – make a note of checks carried out
  • Water maintenance – note when you flush the system through 

Review food and health & safety procedures

  • During our ‘normal’ working lives, there is little available time to stop, think and do, so where possible use this time to:
  • Undertake those jobs that you have been putting off 
  • Update food safety, H&S policies and risk assessments
  • Review your allergy information and processes
  • Complete online training courses

We are encouraged to keep a diary of all places we visit and a list of the people we have physical contact with on a daily basis.

If this is taken on board, it would reduce the workload of those working tirelessly with the job of Contact Tracing in the weeks ahead.

This will make a big difference in identifying people who need to be contacted and reduce the workload of Contact Tracing.

Publicans should ensure there is adequate soap and water available in all public and staff bathrooms at all times. Please display posters outlining how to properly wash hands click HERE

To download and print display posters for your pub click HERE or click on individual posters here:

                       

                 

It may seem obvious, but your health is more important than anything else. The stress people are feeling right now is perfectly understandable so please ensure you have someone to talk things through. Alternatively, you can call The Samaritans at 116 123 or visit their website: www.samaritans.org

Mental Health Ireland list five key areas we should all concentrate on to remind healthy over the coming period. To view click HERE

This year is very different and it’s important to stay positive about the situation we find ourselves in. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to a fellow publican. We know a few of you around the country have made the commitment to call a few fellow publicans every day to see if they’re ok. Now more than ever it’s good to talk.

There’s a great online resource called Lust for Life that is also worth checking out HERE