The Government has pushed back the planned easing of COVID 19 restrictions until February 2022 at the earliest, leaving nightclubs in confusion over their ability to reopen this coming Friday 22nd October.

All remaining COVID 19 restrictions were due to be lifted on Friday 22nd October, including the need for vaccination certificates to enter hospitality venues, limits on numbers at events and most mask-wearing requirements. However, the Government announced today that current restrictions will remain in place until February 2022 at the earliest.

Confusingly, Taoiseach Micheál Martin also confirmed that nightclubs will be free to reopen this Friday but with the current restrictions still in place. This means that COVID certificates will need to be presented at the door, there will be table service only with a maximum of 10 per table, and that face coverings must be worn except when eating, drinking, or dancing.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that it is an ‘anomaly’ that people will be able to dance in nightclubs but not get a drink at the bar. He went on to say that specific guidelines are being developed for the sector.

With the resumption of activity less than sixty hours away, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has warned that the latest announcement from Government has left more questions than answers and will lead to problems throughout the licensed trade.

The LVA expects several nightclubs will proceed with their expected reopening plans. They also expressed their dismay that the Government now has no plan for the return to normal trading in hospitality, with the sector having previously been repeatedly told that they would be able to resume full service once the majority of the population was vaccinated. Currently 92% of the adult population has been vaccinated.

Donall O’Keeffe said: “We now have a night time sector that will be reopening in less than 60 hours and which doesn’t know what restrictions they will be trading under or whether it will be viable to open in the first place.

“Permitting certain activities while preventing others also makes little sense to those who work in the hospitality sector. We are delighted to see the return of dancing for example but where is the logic that permits that activity but rules out the use of the bar counter?“

Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: “Over 92% of people are vaccinated so we could have easily removed mandatory table service by limiting entry to customers with vaccine passes. Instead, Government has guaranteed the closure of more pubs over the coming months.“

Other planned easing of restrictions are to go ahead, with capacity limits for weddings and religious services being lifted.

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