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Ennis Chamber of Commerce President and publican Darragh McAllister.

Clare publican: continuing restrictions will shut more bars

WHILE publicans had been hoping to see the end of a dark chapter for the sector on Friday, those hopes were dashed with news that some restrictions will be staying in place, potentially until February 2022.

While normal opening hours can resume, from Friday there will still be a requirement for customers to have a Covid certificate, table service must remain in place with a maximum of ten adults per table, social distancing will remain, while collection of contact tracing information will continue.

Face masks are required but can be removed for the consumption of food or drinks.
Specific guidelines for nightclubs are to be made available.

Publican Darragh McAllister is also President of business advocacy group Ennis Chamber. Following this week’s news that restrictions will be continuing, he said there was disappointment among his colleagues.

“It is hugely disappointing, but I have to admit that because there have been so many false dawns there weren’t too many hopes raised.

“We did expect there would be some bit of loosening with the indoor, if you have to be vaccinated to be inside anyway, then restrictions are almost meaningless, it’s essentially pointless having restrictions for those that are vaccinated.

“Keeping restrictions for those who are vaccinated really doesn’t make any sense, it just kind of annoys people and gets in the way of allowing business to return to normal.”

He said that there are serious financial implications to the retention of restrictions.

“Everyone has to remain seated and table service has to stay in place. There’s a massive requirement there in terms of staff and it needs to be subsidised.

“The fact of the matter is when you’re limiting the numbers allowed on the premises you’re not making anything like the turnover that you normally would and you’re paying far more in staff, all your costs are gone through the roof.

“It’s important they don’t go putting the cart before the horse and cutting the supports that were in place.”

At the moment he said that getting new staff for pubs is very hard.

“It’s nigh on impossible. I don’t know of any pub that hasn’t had some trouble in getting people.”

With Ireland having had a very successful vaccination programme, he says that doesn’t seem to be enough to allow reopening.

“I don’t see how more vaccinations are going to do much good (in terms of easing restrictions), there was always going to be a cohort of unvaccinated, but we have nearly the highest vaccination rate in the world. It does seem almost never ending.

“Businesses need to know under what circumstances things can go back to normal. Not only are the false dawns disheartening and depressing, but they’re so bad for businesses and it’d be easier for people to close.”

He feels more publicans will close their doors permanently.

“I think so. We’ve seen a five per cent loss of pubs across the country and that mightn’t sound like a lot but you’re talking about a couple of hundred pubs.

“The reality is a lot of people were holding out to see would it be worth their while. Of course that’s being delayed now and it’s going to be another few months before they can find their feet and see if it’s going to be worth their while staying open.”

NPHET want restrictions to remain in place until February of next year and it looks like pubs will miss out on the busy Christmas season.

“We had a good summer, the beginning of the summer was a bumper period, it was great and that made up for the fact that we were heading into a quieter time. We would need the Christmas to round off the year. Traditionally the December period would cover about three months, you’re doing nothing in November or in January or February.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.
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