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Mon, May
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Social distancing ‘very difficult’ to achieve in pubs - Mayo VFI

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OUT OF ORDER? Under new VFI proposals, no orders will be made by customers at the counter when pubs re-open.  Pic: istock

Vintners put forward radical changes to fast-track openings to June 29

Anton McNulty

The implementation of social distancing in pubs will be very difficult to achieve according to the VFI chairman in Mayo, who feels that alcohol excise duties will have to be reduced if pubs are to stay in business when they reopen.
The Government’s roadmap to easing the Covid-19 restrictions has earmarked August 10 (phase 5) as the earliest dates whereby pubs will be able to reopen ‘where social distancing and strict cleaning can be complied with’.
Alan Gielty, Chairman of the Mayo branch of the VFI, told The Mayo News that it will be difficult for publicans to ensure social distancing is complied with.
“I don’t know how pubs will be able to implement social distancing and there is nothing in the roadmap to suggest how it will be implemented. People go to the pub to meet other people and go for the craic and the atmosphere. Social distancing will be very difficult to implement especially when people get a few drinks on them,” he said.
Mr Gielty added that the reduction in customers allowed on the premises will affect publicans staying in business.
“Pubs operate on volume because there is not much profit in a pint because of the amount of excise on alcohol. While pubs may be allowed to reopen, if there is a limit on the people coming into pubs, many won’t be able to meet the cost of the overheads. If pubs are to stay in business with social distancing, the Government will have to bring down the excise price of alcohol along with a reduction in VAT to 9 percent or lower,” he said.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) are calling on the Government to allow pubs to reopen at the same time as restaurants and cafes on June 29 (phase 3).

Radical changes
They have set out a forward ‘radical changes’ to the normal operations of bars in order to protect public health. These include no standing, ordering or sitting at the bar; only service for customers seated at tables and a maximum of six people permitted at any one table.
Mr Gielty who runs Gielty’s Clew Bay Bar and Restaurant in Dooagh on Achill Island, said there was a ‘grey area’ around restaurants and cafes being allowed to reopen and serve alcohol but pubs like his will not be allowed to open and serve food.
He said this was leading to frustration among publicans and he was ‘skeptical’ that they will reopen on August 10 if the roadmap does not go according to plan.
“There is a lot of frustration among publicans because they are seen as non-essential and nobody cares when we can reopen. There is also the uncertainty about social distancing and the question whether staff will have to wear PPE or bars will be screened like in shops and the issue of customers going to toilets. We have missed out on St Patrick’s Day, Easter and the May Bank Holiday and likely to miss on June and August. It could even be October before we open, we just don’t know at the moment. We just have to do what we are told.”

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