Pubs stuck in cruel limbo as planned lockdown strangles sector

The Government announcement that the hospitality sector, including pubs serving food, is likely to be shut down three days after Christmas is further proof that a coherent roadmap to a sustainable reopening is vital if the trade is to survive in 2021. The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland says pubs are at the mercy of Government and NPHET decision making, which will see food outlets closing just three weeks after reopening in early December.

This weekend, pubs serving food are facing another round of calls to suppliers to cancel orders, worried staff are fearing for their jobs while a further erosion of customer confidence is likely. The message to Government is clear: tell our members what’s going on and tell them now.

Pubs serving food only reopened two weeks ago after going through a six-week closure while traditional pubs are closed since 15th March, except for a brief two-week trading period in late September. No business sector can survive such a violent undermining of its foundations.

Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, says: “This latest announcement caps an utterly disastrous year for the pub sector. While the vast majority of our members never got to reopen in early December, pubs serving food were given a chance to trade into next year but now that’s been snatched from them.

“It’s as clear as day that the sector needs a concise explanation – a roadmap – from Government and NPHET detailing under what conditions all pubs will be  allowed reopen. The prolonged uncertainty has placed our members in the cruellest of limbos where there is zero clarity from decision makers about the trade’s future.

“It’s obvious that closing hospitality is NPHET’s only lever to pull. Non-essential retail will remain open while people will congregate in homes throughout the Christmas period. For Government to say new restrictions will be placed on gatherings in homes is utterly meaningless, such restrictions will be ignored. What’s particularly galling for our members is the latest Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HPSC) data reveals pubs are not responsible for any outbreaks while a massive 79% are traced to private dwellings. Pubs are safe, regulated environments, a fact NPHET appears to wish to ignore.

“We need face-to-face engagement with Government immediately as the hospitality sector needs clarity now. That Government are waiting until next Tuesday to make an announcement is shocking and is simply too late for businesses that need to make decisions today. A potential shut down date of 28th December will effectively close many businesses on Christmas Eve as few will wish to reopen for a couple of days only to close again. It’s a complete mess,” concludes Mr Cribben.