The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) says the political decision to keep pubs closed while allowing food premises to reopen highlights a stunning act of Government hypocrisy, which has resulted in publicans now being treated as second-class citizens within the hospitality sector. Publicans strongly believe that because both pubs and restaurants are defined as controlled environments, all outlets should have the opportunity to trade. There is scant logic in permitting one type of venue open and not the other.
The Government decision to spilt the trade in two will cause huge distress to publicans and their staff who have already borne the heaviest burden since first closing back in March. Over 22,000 people will now continue on the PUP over Christmas and have no prospect of returning to work in the New Year.
While the news that pubs serving food can resume trading is welcome, these venues will open under the constant threat of a post-Christmas lockdown.
There is now widespread belief amongst publicans that so-called ‘wet’ pubs may not reopen until a vaccine achieves herd immunity.
Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, says: “The trade has experienced a series of ever-deepening depressions over the past nine months but this latest decision by Government to keep pubs closed while the rest of the hospitality sector reopens is the worst by far. The Taoiseach said he is trusting business owners and customers to act responsibly when the country reopens next week but his message to publicans is ‘we don’t trust you’.
“Pubs are some of the most regulated businesses in the country, while publicans must renew their licence annually. It’s not in their interest to ignore the guidelines as they know it could lead to a loss of their licence and livelihood. We also know from the 30,000 inspections carried out by An Garda since the summer is that the overwhelming majority of publicans were compliant with the guidelines.”
The VFI believes that while NPHET has an anti-pub bias, ultimately it was the Government’s choice to make about what businesses could reopen.
“We took Dr Ronan Glynn, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, at his word when he told publicans that never again would pubs be treated differently to food outlets. There is huge frustration within the trade that Government chose not to keep the trade together,” says Mr Cribben.
“This will be the end of the road for many of our members, who were hanging on for Christmas in the hope of a busy festive period. With the early months of 2021 looking bleak we see many closures over the coming months.
“We will be requesting an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach to explain what additional measures will be put in place for pubs that are now missing out on any chance of recouping some of the massive losses experienced this year. There is also the question of a Government roadmap out of this crisis for the trade. Publicans are deeply worried that Government has no answers about reopening and that an uncertain 2021 looms,” concludes Mr Cribben.