Chamber chief and publican believes new reopening regime better than last year’s
A NEW chapter in the Covid recovery story begins on Monday, when restaurants and pubs can begin outdoor service once again.
As visitors to Ennis on weekend evenings during May would have observed, certain pubs have been giving takeaway services for some time, but from Monday people can stay and consume their drinks in the outdoor sections of pub grounds.
For those without outdoor areas but not doing take away, it will be the first time to open in 2021, although indoor drinking and dining won’t resume until July 5.
Publican and President of Ennis Chamber of Commerce Darragh McAllister is planning to reopen Lucas’ Bar on Parnell Street on Monday.
Delighted to be finally getting the chance to do so, he admitted to a certain level of apprehension too.
“We’re over the moon, but yeah, there are a few nerves as well. It’s a bit like the first day of school for everyone, we’re all getting back into the swing of things, trying to remember how everything works and of course getting ready for the fact that things will be so different as well.”
Inevitably there are Covid requirements that will need to be met from next Monday, but he feels these are a little bit more sensible and nuanced than was the case for the short reopening in 2020.
“The fact that it is table service only, it’s quite onerous from a labour point of view, and obviously we’ll be doing things very differently. But we’re a lot freer to do it.
“When we did open the last time, last year, there was a limit of 15 on customers, regardless of the amount of space you had or the distance you could provide.
“They’ve changed that so that tables that are one metre apart can seat up to six people and there’s no limit now on the number of tables of six you can fit in your outdoor space.
“Anyone that has an outdoor space will be able to maximise it.”
When indoor service is back, the regulations will also be a bit different, he adds.
“Come July or whenever indoor service resumes, there will be a time limit for tables that are less than two metres apart, but if you can maintain the two metres then there won’t be a time limit.
“I can’t speak for everyone but for our own part we will go for that, we found that the time limit was confusing and a bit discombobulating for people. We’d rather have fewer tables but have as normal a service as possible.”
Having outdoor table service will limit the possibility of the virus being transmitted between members of different groups, he feels.
“The intention is to prevent people from mingling, whether it’s two of you or six of you, you keep to your own group. The same rules will apply, sanitising will be paramount, you mask up on the way into the pub, on the way out of the pub, on the way into use the bathroom and the way out again.”
Last week saw yet more controversy over outdoor gatherings, with huge crowds seen drinking on streets in the capital.
There have been several episodes of large scale partying and subsequent moral outrage over the last year or so, but Darragh feels much of it could have been headed off by allowing pubs to accommodate customers outdoors at an earlier stage.
“The fact that premises are open, there will be numbers limits and there will be people like ourselves who will be responsible for the behaviour, we’ll be keeping an eye on that. I expect to see a marked improvement in public behaviour once pubs are open. As we said from the beginning, whatever fears people had about public behaviour, they’d have been mitigated greatly by allowing us to open.”