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Real fears over another indoor-hospitality delay

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‘MY HEART IS BROKEN’ Westport restaurant owner Sinead Lambert Barroso.


Oisín McGovern

MAYO business owners have expressed serious concerns at the prospect of a delay to the reopening of indoor hospitality.
Today (Tuesday), the Cabinet will decide whether or not to postpone the planned reopening of indoor pubs and restaurants from July 5 to July 19.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the media yesterday afternoon (Monday) that the pause in reopening was ‘not inevitable’ but added that it would be ‘very hard’ for government to go against Nphet advice.
Proponents for pausing the reopening argue that it would allow more time to give second vaccine doses to protect against the Delta variant.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday evening, Westport restaurant owner Sinead Lambert Barroso slammed the proposed delay to reopening indoor dining.
“You can dine in a hotel, it doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Lambert, whose business has been completely closed since December 24.
“There’s no factual evidence to prove that [restaurants are more dangerous]. What is the difference between a hotel restaurant and [my restaurant] Sol Rio? None.”
Ms Lambert said that losing two week’s summer trade would ‘absolutely detrimental’ to hospitality businesses.
“One week in July equals a month’s takings in the winter. It’s a lot. I have to make contact with every one of those bookings and cancel them,” she said.
“I’ve refused so many people this week, my heart is broken,” she added.
Ms Lambert said that her business would be ‘a lamb to the slaughter’ if the reopening was postponed past July 19, the date when international travel is due to resume.
She called on the government to begin vaccinating younger people against Covid-19 in order to allow businesses to reopen safely.
“There will be a revolution in the country if they don’t open the restaurants.
“You don’t know the amount of phone calls and texts I get from people who feel so sorry for us. It’s shocking,” she said.
“I don’t think [the government] are giving us enough evidence and they are not giving us enough support.
“My CRSS is not going to support what I was getting if I was back at work in July.  My whole family is invested in this business, my staff who’ve been with me for year and years … and we’re all hurting.”
‘Absolutely devastating’
Mayo Vintners’ Federation secretary Marie Mellett fears that the government will extend the closure of indoor hospitality longer than July 19.
Ms Mellett told The Mayo News that it would be ‘absolutely devastating’ for pubs and restaurants if the closure is extended past that date.
“The fear is that we could be having this exact same word in about two weeks time. If it is pushed out to July 19, that’s not going to be certain, so we’re going to be having this conversation again wondering can we open on July 19,” she said.
“It’s not ‘only two weeks’. These are the summer weeks. We can’t make up this time in September,” she continued.
“That’s what’s frustrating, it’s two more weeks, two more weeks, the two more weeks after that. I fear we won’t be open for the August Bank Holiday.
“We’re not too bad because we have an outside area, but that’s barely viable and it’s very weather dependent. We need to get inside.
“I do want to get the message across that public health is Number 1, and if it is only two weeks that’s fine. But if it’s delayed it’s going to be really devastating for everyone involved.”
Ms Mellett, who runs Mellett’s Emporium in Swinford, said that the government needed to provide more clarity on the level of vaccination needed to safely reopen.
With international travel due to resume from July 19, Ms Mellett said that extending the closure would mean it would be possible for Irish people to have a pint in Spain, but not in Swinford.
“What makes a joke of the whole thing is that hotels are open and indoor dining is very much happening across the country,” she added.
“It’s just a few small independent pubs and restaurants without outdoor spaces that can’t open. It’s going to destroy their livelihoods.”