The Government risk being left behind by the public if they deny outdoor hospitality service resuming next month, according to the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA).

The vintners expect the levels of outdoor socialising to grow significantly in the coming weeks as the public health situation improves and the country begins to experience better weather.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) says the upcoming Government announcement about reopening hospitality must include a coherent plan that provides confidence for its members and the 50,000 staff employed by pubs.

The LVA believes the Government’s choice comes down to whether they want controlled outdoor socialising in managed settings with clear social distancing and other public health protocols followed, or uncontrolled socialising on streets and other public locations across the country.

All pubs and licensed premises are legally permitted to offer takeaway service and LVA members are already reporting “overwhelming” demand for this service from the public. Based on industry feedback, the LVA believes that most pubs will begin providing takeaway to meet that demand if they are not allowed to reopen for outdoor service by the end of May.

Opening outdoor hospitality service will also provide the public with access to thousands of additional toilet facilities. The LVA estimates that once outdoor hospitality service is permitted a further 1,500 toilets would be available across Dublin.

The LVA is seeking outdoor hospitality for all venues to reopen from 24th May, in line with the opening of indoor service in Northern Ireland. This should be the first step in reopening the hospitality sector with the LVA also pressing for indoor service to resume for all pubs and restaurants in June, in line with the expected reopening of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs.

There is huge concern amongst publicans, particularly in border areas, that customers will flock north when beer gardens open while currently there is no date for opening pubs in the Republic.

“The Government risks being left behind by the public if they do not permit outdoor service to resume for all hospitality next month,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA. “The levels of outdoor socialising are going to rise either way in the coming weeks as the weather gets milder and the public health situation improves. Really the choice is whether to have increased levels of outdoor socialising take place in the controlled settings provided by hospitality or leave it unfettered and uncontrolled in public spaces, without any facilities.”

Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, said: “Reopening pubs is not something that can happen overnight. Our members need indicative dates to allow them plan, rehire staff and get their pubs ready. Suppliers will need time to ramp up brewing and organise deliveries.”

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