STILL SHUT Landmark Mayo pubs like Matt Molloy's in Westport are normally a major attraction during the busy tourism season.
THE chairperson of the Mayo Vintners has called for pubs to be compensated if the Government insists they will be among the last businesses to be reopened in the expected gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
Ireland’s pubs have been closed since March 16. Publicans’ hopes that they would be allowed to opened before the end of the summer seem to have been dashed over the weekend, when Minister for Health Simon Harris told The Sunday Independent that he could not see people being in packed pubs while the virus is still circulating.
Alan Gielty, chairperson of the Mayo branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, told The Mayo News that a number of publicans in Mayo fear that they will be closed for the remainder of the summer, adding that they should be compensated for time they are closed.
“If the Government come out and say the pubs will be the last places to be opened then we need to be compensated.
“We knew in reality [in March] that it wouldn’t be two weeks, but there was a feeling and a hope that we would be open for the summer season. We thought at first that we would be back up and running by the Whit weekend [June Bank Holiday] but that is not happening.
“To be honest I can’t see any pub being open before September,” he said.
Not a rural issue
“The problem is all the decision being made about pubs are made with Dublin in mind and hundreds of people packed into pubs in Temple Bar,” Gielty continued. “That is not the situation in rural Ireland. We would have not problem with social distancing from Monday to Friday. It is only the busy holiday weekends when you might run into bother with it.”
Mr Gielty explained that the VFI has been lobbying the Government in recent weeks and welcomed confirmation that commercial rates for pubs would be suspended for the duration of the crisis. Measures like this were helpful, he said, but he added that insurance companies continued to ‘kick the can down the road’ when it comes to payouts for business interruption.
“I have had many publicans onto me and the main problem is with insurance companies who do not want to pay out for business interruption. If they don’t do so there will be a good few publicans who will not be opening again,” he added.
Mr Gielty also pointed out that whenever pubs are allowed to reopen it will not be done overnight as publicans will have to give breweries three weeks notice before the delivery of new stock. He also questioned how off-licences are still allowed to trade as an essential service.
The closure of the pubs shows how important they are to the social side of Irish life, he believes.
Based on Achill Island, where he runs Gielty’s Clew Bay Bar and Restaurant, Mr Gielty said the loss of the summer season will have a negative impact on the island community.
“The only way to describe doing business on Achill Island is to compare it to a bear who feeds in the summer and hibernates in the winter.
“The business done in the summer has to keep you ticking over for the winter. If you look at the amount of B&Bs, hotels, restaurants and small businesses that rely on the summer, as well as the students who rely on the summer job to put them through college – it will have a huge effect on Achill.”