Diageo has announced the opening of the Raising the Bar Helpline, a dedicated freephone support phoneline for pub owners, their staff and their immediate families affected by the COVID 19 crisis.

The service is available as of 6th November and is being financed as part of the €14m Raising the Bar fund established by Guinness this summer.

The helpline will be staffed by a team of counsellors, as well as finance experts, in Ireland, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. To ensure that calls continue to be answered, even out of hours, there are counsellors available to take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ensuring that contact can be made at any time and any relevant follow up scheduled. All contact details for the helpline are available now on www.MyDiageo.com.

The Raising the Bar Helpline aims to provide support to callers who are struggling as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic by providing emotional counselling and information regarding financial supports available to them. The financial impact of COVID 19 pub closures has been hugely significant, with one third of pubs in Dublin having been closed continuously for the last 8 months and 50% of pubs throughout Ireland allowed to open for only 3 out of the last 35 weeks after enduring at least four delays to reopening over the course of the summer, under the most severe hospitality lockdown in Europe.

Meanwhile, almost 50% of publicans have borrowed as much as €16,000 since March — one in five as much as €30,000 — to cover staff wages and health and safety equipment, such as Perspex screens and PPE.

However, the true cost of this crisis cannot be measured in financial terms alone, and those in the pub trade have spoken openly of the heartbreak and pressure they have faced not only due to the stop-start nature of closures, but also the prolonged period of loneliness they have faced being out of work and away from the customers they interact with on a daily basis. These sentiments have been echoed by the general public with 78% of consumers in a recent survey concerned about the loss of jobs in their local community, and 50% saying that pub closures have led to a decrease in community spirit and morale.

Liam Reid, Corporate Relations Director of Diageo Ireland, said: “During this difficult time, we know that publicans and their staff are worried, anxious and in need of practical measures to help them emerge from the longest hospitality lockdown in Europe. Guinness is committed to working with our partners in the LVA, VFI and Hospitality Ulster to identify key areas where we can support all those in the sector who continue to be hardest hit as an industry by the effects of the COVID 19 crisis. The hospitality industry plays an essential role in the Irish economy and the impact of Covid-19 is putting a staggering 114,000 jobs at risk in the sector, equalling a massive 7.6% of Ireland’s total workforce.”

This initiative is part of a Diageo global programme of $100m to support pubs and bars and provide them with targeted support to ensure they can eventually re-open and welcome back customers safely.

Donall O’Keefe, CEO of the LVA, commented: “Publicans across Ireland have now faced almost eight months of continuous closures and rolling lockdowns as we deal with the Covid-19 crisis, putting enormous pressure on them and their families. We have sought support from both our suppliers and Government and we welcome the further invaluable, practical measures that Guinness are announcing today as part of their Raising the Bar platform.”

Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the VFI, said: “We firmly believe that the Raising the Bar Helpline will be an invaluable resource for our members as they deal with the untold burdens being placed on them due to the disproportionate financial, mental and emotional effects that this crisis has had on those in the pub sector. We welcome the support from our partners at Guinness who are standing by the pub trade at this incredibly difficult time.”

Almost 5000 outlets across Ireland have already registered and availed of supports from the Guinness Raising the Bar fund since its launch in Ireland in June 2020 including over 3000 outlets who have received reopening essentials kits, with upwards of 87,500 litres of hand sanitiser and 30,000 staff uniforms. The fund has also provided 700 outlets with items to create safe, weather-proof, outdoor spaces and sponsored mandatory compliance training for over 11,000 bar-staff across Ireland.

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