Following the publication of Northern Ireland’s reopening plan, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have released statements demanding that outdoor service be allowed for all hospitality venues by the end of May.

Additionally, the groups have said that this should be followed by a return to indoor service for all pubs and restaurants shortly afterwards, aligned with the reopening of hotels across the country.

The LVA made their comments as it was announced Northern Ireland would be allowing all hospitality to reopen for outdoor service later this month from 30th April, while indoor service is due to resume for all hospitality in England from 17th May and in Northern Ireland from 24th May.

With NPHET outlining the need for social contact to remain largely unchanged over the next six weeks, the LVA has said that once that period has elapsed hospitality should begin reopening, starting with outdoor service for all venues – including all pubs and restaurants. This would be from the week beginning 24th May.

The LVA believes that any long delay between the reopening of hospitality in the North and in the Republic will lead to thousands of people making the journey across the Border every weekend.

Northern Ireland’s reopening announcement came on the same day that traditional pubs in Dublin marked 13 consecutive months of closure by order of the Government.

With the Taoiseach confirming hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs will be allowed to reopen in June, the LVA says the reopening of all indoor service should be aligned with that date, given the risk profile for eating and drinking in these venues is the same as in any other form of hospitality.

Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, said: “The most significant message coming from the North is that all hospitality opens together, including pubs, hotels and restaurants. Similar to England there is no divide based on food. That must be replicated here and avoid the divisions created in 2020.

“There has been commentary from senior politicians here about allowing hotels reopen in June. Our message is clear that if indoor premises such as hotels are deemed safe it logically follows that, with the appropriate measures in place, a pub is also safe. All hospitality outlets must open together,” said Mr Cribben.

“Following the publication of the reopening plan in Northern Ireland, the Government should now set out a plan for reopening hospitality in the Republic beginning in six weeks’ time,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA. “The reopening should start with outdoor service for all hospitality, which includes traditional pubs, gastropubs and restaurants and with capacity dictated by social distancing. That timeframe would allow for the further rollout of the vaccine and would also ensure that NPHET’s request for social contact to remain unchanged for the next six weeks is met.

“The tens of thousands of people working in pubs and across the Irish hospitality sector are understandably keen to get back to work and to return to some sense of normality. It has been a very, very long time coming. Hospitality can’t be kept closed indefinitely and we believe this is a reasonable approach towards reopening while also being mindful of public health,” said Mr O’Keeffe.

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