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New Ennis Chamber of Commerce President, Darragh McAllister.

Rain dampens publican’s trade

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PUBLICANS received bad news last week when the return of indoor dining and drinking was put on hold, and that has been compounded since, with wet and miserable weather deterring people who might have been content to socialise outdoors.
Speaking on Tuesday, Ennis publican and Ennis Chamber President, Darragh McAllister said the change in weather brought a big change in business.
“Oh completely, it’s down by over half. We kind of knew it was coming as well, with people unsure about the weather they wouldn’t head out into it. It had a massive effect, it was always going to do.”
While there are a number of pubs open again, he says few are profitable due to the restrictions and increased obligations on publicans.
“The few places that can do it are still limited, there are only so many people you can have anyway. In reality the whole thing isn’t viable without the supports that are in place, it’s not viable until we get back to the counter and back to normal service.
“Even those of us that are open and tipping away, we still have the bit of support there from Government towards the wages, which is a help because it’s massively labour intensive.
“You’re talking about pubs that had three staff on a Friday night, now have up to eight, taking in less money.”
He said the hope from the start has been that a safe reopening of outdoor facilities would encourage a move to a more complete reopening.
“We’re all chomping at the back to get back into it, we’re doing our best with it, but the reason for us getting behind it and opening isn’t that there’s any money being made, but we want to prove it can be done, that we can operate and do it safely, so we can get back inside as soon as possible.
“We’ve said it from the start that what’s best for everyone is what needs to be done, but it’s very difficult to look across Europe and see we’re the only country that doesn’t have digital passports, we’re the only country that don’t have indoor service.
“There are places with way bigger numbers (of infections) than us and they can still manage to have indoor service. It leaves a bitter taste, because it seems there’s a lack of trust or else they just don’t care.
“From the whole start of the thing it seemed that we were just an afterthought for the Government.”
He said last week’s announcement of the postponement of the resumption of indoor service left many people in the business very frustrated and fearful for their livelihoods.
With Ireland pursuing quite conservative policies, he doesn’t expect a more comprehensive reopening soon.
“I certainly wouldn’t hold out any hope anyway. I don’t think we’re going to get too much out of the Government, they seem absolutely terrified to interpret the advice they’re being given, they’re just taking it as rote.”
However, with the vaccination programme fairly advanced, he does feel there needs to be some moves towards normalisation. “We can’t just say we’ve had a good run, let’s have everyone close down and stay at home until we die.”
Recommendations to move things outdoors are in general rather unrealistic, he says.
“There are lads up in Dublin saying we should be more like the continent and have outdoor this and outdoor that.
“We’ve been living on this rock for 8,000 years, we know what it’s like! If eating your spuds and gravy outside there’d be an awful lot more of it going on and it’d have happened a long time ago!”

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.