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‘There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there’

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Pubs and restaurant react to latest Covid restrictions

Oisín McGovern

THE chairman of the Mayo branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has described the latest government restrictions on hospitality as ‘another kick’ to the industry.
From today (Monday), public houses and restaurants must close by 8pm until at least January 30 2022.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday afternoon (Monday), Alan Gielty said that the new restrictions were going to increase house parties while making it ‘very difficult’ for businesses to trade.
“They haven’t said we’re in lockdown, but it’s making it very difficult to trade. A lot of pubs won’t open until four or five o’clock in the evening, so what’s the point in opening for three hours? All it’s going to do is drive people to house parties,” Gielty said.
“If you get a group of people in a pub, especially the younger generation, they start drinking at six o’clock and by eight o’clock they are told to go. They’re not going to go home, so it’s going to be house parties. That’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
Gielty said that the current restrictions were ‘inconsistent’ with 100 people being allowed gather at a wedding reception until 12 midnight. He also claimed that there was a lack of enforcement of the existing regulations for hospitality.
“There’s no continuity in anything whatsoever. As a federation we don’t know what way to turn,” he said.
“I’d say we’ll be locked down in January and February. It’s very difficult to trade, it’s very disheartening.”

‘Unprofitable’
CASTLEBAR restauranteur Barry Ralph said that the new restrictions had made it unprofitable for many restaurants to trade.
Ralph, who runs House of Plates on Chapel Street, said that allowing restaurants to trade until 9pm would have made a substantial difference to the industry.
“It basically cuts my turnover in half,” Ralph said of the 8pm closing time.
“I now only have one sitting a night where before we would’ve had two sittings. I’m only a small restaurant, I only have 40 seats so I’ve all the same overheads … and now I’ve only half the money coming in. It’s like trying to get water from a stone. That’s the reality of it,” he added.
“I think if they had give us 9pm [closing] it would’ve made so much more sense. We could’ve got two sittings in a night. People are still working. No one is going to be in here at 3.30pm to  4pm in the day. We’re not that type of restaurant. We could’ve had a sitting at 6pm and 7.30pm with 9 o’clock closing. It would’ve been the difference for an awful lot of businesses folding.”
He continued: “Our government didn’t ask anyone about this. They just made the decision without even thinking about it really. I think if they’d spoken to people in hospitality, the difference in the 8pm to 9 o’clock is just massive.”
Ralph told The Mayo News that other restaurants were having similar difficulties with the current restrictions.
“There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there,” he said.
Rural pubs ‘not viable’
ACHILL publican Paddy Lavelle said it may not be viable for rural publicans to continue trading until January with the mandatory 8pm closing time.
“All the customers are saying the same thing, that this restriction makes no odds, because house parties will be the thing now for the Christmas,” said Lavelle, who runs Mickey’s Bar in Dooega with his brother Brian.
“It has been really hard running a pub since Covid came in. We just have to sit it out. I’d say a lot of pubs might not have stayed open for the winter if they knew this was the Christmas we were going to have,” Lavelle added.
“It is a bit of a joke, the timing of it. I’ve orders in and after this announcement, the reality is that I have a couple of grand too much.
“They’re talking about the 8pm closure running until the end of January … I think you’ll do well to see pubs staying open in January because the demand won’t be there. Rural pubs have an evening and night time trade, not a day trade. It might be different in towns.”