The Government has given the green light for Ireland’s pubs to reopen on 21st September, following a cabinet meeting on the morning of Tuesday 8th September.
It became apparent over the weekend that ‘wet’ pubs, i.e. pubs that only serve alcohol, will be allowed reopen under strict guidelines when leaked documents began to surface on social media. They were later published in full by Fáilte Ireland.
There was frustration at the documents as they are near identical to existing rules governing the opening of restaurants and cafés, leading many publicans to wonder why they were excluded from the initial list of businesses allowed to reopen.
Pubs were the first part of the economy to close at the beginning of the crisis, with pubs across the country closing their doors in the interest of public health on 15th March 2020.
This will be the fourth reopening date provided to the non food pubs, with the Government previously having delayed reopenings scheduled for 20th July, 10th August and 31st August.
The two representative bodies for pubs across Ireland have welcomed the announcement that non food pubs will be allowed to reopen, saying “it’s about time”. The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said the non food pubs will have been closed for 189 days – more than 6 months – by the time they get to reopen.
LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “If all pubs are following social distancing then they should all have had the opportunity to get their doors open long before now. The vast majority of pubs have acted incredibly responsibly during this crisis and the pubs still closed have taken a real hit for the good of public health. It is about time that this contribution was acknowledged by the Government. We look forward to raising a glass once these pubs do get to open their doors again after six long months.”
However, the plan is subject to local restrictions, and there are fears that Dublin and Limerick may be under a temporary lockdown at that point due to increasing numbers of COVID 19 cases in both cities.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) reported 102 new cases of COVID 19 in Ireland for Monday 7th September, of which 56 were in Dublin.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “The next seven days are vital, everyone needs to reduce their contacts and assume any person you do meet may be carrying the virus.”
The guidelines would see the 105 minute time limit for customers abolised in places where a distance of two metres between customers from different households can be maintained. In smaller establishments where physical distancing can only be kept at one metre, the 105 minute time limit remains.
Pubs would also be required to keep a record of the arrival times of customers, as well as their contact details.
Other rules are identical to those already adhered to by restaurants and pubs serving food, such as table only service, no bar service allowed of any kind, and a strict 11.30pm close time.
Irish drinks suppliers have welcomed the decision. Drinks Ireland said that the sector will now work with publicans to supply product for the reopening, including brewing beer and delivering kegs. It will also work with pubs to clean beer lines, which is necessary before the reopening. This is a lengthy and costly process that will require the next two weeks, it said, stating that decisions should not be reversed, and calling for no ‘stop and start’ approach to pubs reopening.
Drinks Ireland will launch a new campaign in the coming days called #OpeningTime, highlighting the importance of getting Irish pubs open safely and sustainably.
Patricia Callan, Director of Drinks Ireland, said: The drinks industry is committed to doing its part to support pubs, which have been closed since March, and will be working closely with them over the next two weeks, to supply product and clean beer lines.”