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LVA calls for more clarity on conditions for pubs reopening

The organisation representing Dublin pubs has said the Government must publicly communicate the circumstances that have to apply to permit the full reopening of the hospitality sector.

In an opening statement sent to the Oireachtas tourism committee ahead of its appearance there today, the Licensed Vintners Association said it understands that specific reopening dates cannot yet be provided.

But it said the sector needs to know answers to questions such as what percentage of the adult population will need to be vaccinated to allow all pubs or hospitality businesses to reopen and what level of community transmission will also need to apply?

The LVA, which represents pubs that account for 30% of the national on-trade market and employ 12,000 people, said it knows that the most effective pathway for the sector to reopen is as rapid a vaccine rollout as possible.

But it said it wants to know whether it will be the case that pubs and hospitality can only reopen for vaccinated customers?

The association is also seeking confirmation that post vaccination, the distinction between wet bars and pubs that serve food will be eliminated “and that all pubs and other hospitality businesses should be able to open at the same time.”

“There could be no justification for keeping wet pubs closed while allowing food pubs and restaurants to reopen this summer,” it said.

The LVA pointed out that wet bars, late bars and nightclubs in Dublin closed on March 15 last year and have not reopened at all since, meaning they have now been closed for 372 days.

Dublin pubs serving food have been shut on three occasions over the last year and have only traded for 105 days of the last 372.

 

“They have also had to deal with the appalling “will they, won’t they reopen” through several NPHET/Govt review dates July-October of last year,” the organisation said.

Regarding financial supports, the LVA said that while Government assistance to the sector has proven a real lifeline, the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) needs to be doubled for hospitality businesses.

It also stated that the entire licensed trade will require a significantly enhanced Restart Grant prior to opening again, set at a level double the payment businesses received last summer.

The LVA also wants the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to be extended to March of next year and the extension of the CRSS for businesses who cannot generate more than 25% of their average weekly 2019 turnover because of any ongoing public health restrictions.

The Dublin publicans group also recommended that the waiver on commercial rates for licensed premises be pushed out to the end of March 2022 as well as the extension of the 9% VAT rate for hospitality to the end of 2025.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland has also called on the Government to indicate what conditions will be required for pubs to re-open.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Padraig Cribben said they are not suggesting that the Government should give a date for re-opening, but it should give an an indication of the level of vaccination required and the levels at which community transmission and hospitalisation need to be at for his members to re-open.

He said there are so many mixed messages coming from the Government, which he said is creating an uncertainty that is unnecessary.

Many pubs have been closed 12 months and some of them, which have been in place for generations, are under severe threat and “the mental pressure of that is alarming”.

Mr Cribben said that two things are in very short supply in the sector – cash and hope.

He said that pub businesses accept that public health must come first, but this must be done against the background of treating people as adults and they need to hear the conditions under which they can get their  businesses up and running again.

He said it is not just about the 7,000 publicans – it is about their 50,000 staff, the musicians who play in the pubs, the comedians who use them as venues, the engineers who fix the refrigeration and the local suppliers who provide food and drink.

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