New measures will provide ‘degree of hope’, say Vintners

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) says measures introduced in Budget 2021 to aid the sector will bring some degree of confidence to publicans, who are facing into a protracted period of uncertainty after enduring a near total shutdown for most of 2020.  However, there is disappointment the budget failed to reflect the fact these outlets will have been closed for almost nine months with minimum support.

The VFI says its key aim for the medium-term is to ensure pubs can survive until either a vaccine is found or the pandemic subsides, allowing pubs to once again trade normally.

The announcement of the Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS), which will provide weekly cash grants to publicans based on 2019 turnover until March 2021, is therefore welcomed by the VFI as an meaningful support for members attempting to keep their businesses alive.

VFI Chief Executive, Padraig Cribben, says: “It’s clear pubs will be exposed to the full force of social distancing measures to suppress the spread of Covid-19 until a vaccine is found. In that context, the Budget needed to reflect the reality our members will face over the coming months. The CRSS provides a degree of hope in that it will supply much needed grant support to publicans for the next five months if we remain at Level Three or higher.

“The new scheme provides a bridge to the future where Covid is over and normal life resumes. Publicans have paid a huge price for closing their businesses so this announcement is the least they deserve. Government needs to address the fact these businesses have been closed for a protracted period and reflect that in the support package.

“The reduction in the hospitality VAT rate from 13.5% to 9% is a welcome development for the food and accommodation sector. At present it’s of little use to most hospitality businesses but hopefully they can avail of the full benefit in 2021.

“It was important that Government brought clarity to the issue of commercial rates for the remainder of 2020, so we welcome the news that rates will be waived for the final quarter. There will be a need to revisit this issue for next year as most pubs when they reopen will continue to trade at less than half capacity. There is scope within the €3.4bn fund Government has set aside for 2021, which must be used in a targeted way for sectors most impacted by Covid.

“The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe says small businesses are the backbone of the economy. While Budget 2021 is a positive start, the future remains extremely uncertain and it’s only when the end of the pandemic is in sight will we know if these measures have been enough.”

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