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‘I think Government has managed all of this very poorly’

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AL FRESCO HERE TO STAY Many pubs and restaurants look set to continue offering outdoor dining options, despite indoor hospitality reopening across the country yesterday. Pictured in the lane beside Sol Rio restaurant over the weekend were, from left: Pat Malone, Fionnula Hughes, Maura Maloney Lambert and Maureen Lambert. Pic: Conor McKeown

Publicans have been ‘the whipping boys’ during the Covid-19 pandemic says VFI

Áine Ryan

WITH some 20 percent of Co Mayo’s pubs due to reopen yesterday (Monday), the eleventh-hour changes to the regulations have been slammed by Achill publican, Alan Gielty.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Mr Gielty, who is Chairman of Mayo VFI (Vintners’ Federation of Ireland), said: “I think government has managed all of this very poorly. I don’t know why the guidelines were not left like they were last year. Our members worked the system well regarding social distancing and recording the contact details of one member of a group. How are we expected to police whether a customer is presenting with a proof of vaccination certificate that is their’s and not someone else’s?”
He said the eleventh hour changes yesterday by the government were culminating in several publicans in the county deferring reopening until the regulations were clearer.
“I spoke to several publicans from Castlebar and other areas this morning who won’t open now until later in the week, due to the lack of clarity. It is unfair to put the entire onus on the publican. Why hasn’t the HSE employed officers to inspect the situation and, indeed, the customer should be bearing the brunt of the responsibility too.”  
He said he had reopened on July 9 for outdoor dining and drinking and now only plans to allow customers indoors if it is raining, which will leave the numbers significantly limited.
“The publicans have been the whipping boys during the pandemic. Meanwhile, I know of a hotel in the county which hosted a wedding for the regulated 50 people but all the other rooms were booked separately by people who were effectively ‘guests’ also, leaving a party of 300,” Mr Gielty said.
He added that a lot of businesses were on their knees and, moreover,  that had he ‘never seen so many advertisements for staff for pubs and restaurants ’ in Achill but there is a huge disincentive to go off the PUP payment and earn a few euros more a week.
THE VFI’s position, as of yesterday, was that no person should be allowed to be seated indoors until their Covid status is verified. The organisation has called for a template to facilitate a record that verifies the Covid status of the customer which is separate to the contact-tracing information , in accordance with GDPR rules.

Short-staffed and confused
WESTPORT’s multi-award winning restauranteur, Frankie Mallon of An Port Mór, was going through the guidelines yesterday afternoon when The Mayo News contacted him.
“This is going to be very confusing,” he said. “I’ve already a table booked for later this week and the person who booked it came into me and said she was fully vaccinated but didn’t have her certificate yet. What are we meant to do?”
He said they were short-staffed and fully booked for Monday night but didn’t have the personnel to check people’s Covid-19 status at the lobby.  
“So, we are going to be very cautious and still apply the two-metre rule, even though it has been reduced. We will only seat half the number we would usually cater for: 20 to 25, instead of 40 to 45, ” Frankie Mallon said.
He added that if the weather becomes sunny again they will consider bringing tables outside as it is what many people appear to prefer now.
“People have totally changed in how they want to dine because of the pandemic,” Mallon added.

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