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Publicans crave certainty in run up to crucial Christmas

WITH pubs closed again due to the Level 5 lockdown, the fear is some will never be able to reopen their doors, according to the Clare Vintners Association.

Clare VFI chairman Darragh McAllister said it was a “kick in the guts” for those businesses that had spent a lot of time, effort and money during the first lockdown preparing for a chance to trade under new restrictions.

He also raised fears of a rolling lockdown scenario and whether publicans would even get the badly needed boon of a window around Christmas to make up for lost trade during the year. “It’s very disappointing and it’s a real kick in the guts after such a short opening,

“There was a lot of work done in the six months we were locked down to get ready for the restrictions after we reopened. People went to a lot of expense and trouble in anticipation of that. “We only had it for two weeks and then there was another lockdown because the vast majority of pubs weren’t able to open up for the outdoor experience.”

Mr McAllister is also concerned that rolling lockdowns could become a reality. “The Taoiseach seems open to the notion that if we do open for Christmas we could be looking at similar numbers again after December and we might have to lock down again. There is a big fear we’ll go into a series of lockdowns. That’s no good to anyone, but at least we’ve been given a date, we have the first of December as a date to look forward to. We have had dates before and we didn’t open, but at least we have that, it’s not like the first lockdown where it was God knows when.”

There is far more socialising done in the month of December than any other month, making it the most wonderful time of the year for publicans.

Less than two months from Christmas, there will almost certainly be no bonanza this year, if they get to open at all. “The great unknown is whether we’ll get a Christmas out of it. The thing about Christmas every year, is that it makes up for three and sometimes four months of business. The business won’t pay for itself in November and January and often February as well. The Christmas period, in reality it has to be spread across a few months,” said Mr McAllister.

“Even though it wouldn’t have been a normal Christmas anyway, it would have been some help to make up for the lost year, but now it looks unlikely that we’ll get that at all.”

One thing he feels publicans could do with is a bit of clarity on where things are going. “We’re asking for a clear direction as to what will happen, because people will be going to expense and if they find out in six weeks’ time they can’t trade for Christmas, that’s the decision made for a lot of places.

“It’d be good for these places, for the incomes and mental health of everyone involved, if they had an idea if they’re going to get to trade or not. Not knowing is the killer, not knowing is going to make people consider closing.

“Hopefully we won’t see too many places making the decision to close it forever, but I fear it’ll be inevitable for some,” he said.

Owen Ryan

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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