The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) has said that the decision to move Donegal to Level Three and effectively close all pubs in the county highlights the stark reality for the trade as it faces a period of prolonged uncertainty.
The cabinet decided on Thursday 24th September to move Donegal to Level Three of restrictions, amid a spike in caes in the county. According to data published by the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Donegal’s 14-day COVID 19 incidence rate of 122.5 per 100,000 population is second only to Dublin.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that government had “No choice other than to act, and act decisively”.
The restrictions will last from midnight on Friday 25th September for three weeks thereafter.
The Taoiseach announced additional supports for businesses affected in the county, with a 30% top-up to the restart grant.
Under Level Three, all of the restrictions that apply in Dublin now apply in Donegal, with the exception that wet pubs can remain open in Donegal with a maximum of 15 people seated outdoors only.
Weddings set to take place in Donegal this weekend can proceed with the existing limit of 50 guests, however from Monday all weddings can have a maximum of 25 guests.
Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, said: “The decision to move Donegal to Level Three effectively closes all pubs in the county. Allowing pubs to remain open for outdoor trading limited to 15 people is only a Government fig leaf, the reality is that from Friday midnight pubs in the county have to close for a minimum of three weeks.
“Our members only reopened last Monday after six months closed, so this news will deal a severe blow to confidence in the pub sector. I know publicans will be asking if this is the future for the trade, temporary openings followed by closures as we fight the virus. There is also deep concern that more counties will follow Donegal and Dublin.
“The question needs to be asked if, instead of county lockdowns, local areas with a high rate of infection could be moved to Level Three. This would help mitigate the impact on publicans and other businesses whose confidence is rapidly evaporating.
“We are calling on Government to implement meaningful supports for the pubs affected. They need support not only for the coming weeks but also for the 11 weeks they were closed after the rest of the hospitality sector was allowed reopen in June.”
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federation, said: “Donegal hoteliers have already been experiencing the detrimental effects being felt by tourism businesses across the country since Dublin moved to level 3 restrictions last Friday, as Dublin residents currently account for between 30-50% of the domestic tourism market. These additional level 3 restrictions will be felt acutely in Donegal as we are now coming into the quieter winter months.
“It must also be remembered the significant contribution that hospitality businesses make to the wider economy, particularly in rural and border counties such as Donegal. Hotels and guesthouses not only provide local employment opportunities, they buy local services, source locally produced food and provide a vital infrastructure in support of local business and communities.”