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28 Nov 2021

Half measures - latest government announcement a 'devastating blow' to struggling Donegal pubs

VFI critical of government "failing to deal with the small percentage of people who remain unvaccinated"

Revealed: Kildare pubs second most crowded in Ireland

Vintners say table service reduces capacity in pubs that are already struggling

Donegal publicans who were expecting a return to a more normal style of trading are angered at the latest government announcement.

The continuation of Covid-19 restrictions in pubs has been described by the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) as a "devastating blow devastating blow to a sector that was expecting to see all restrictions removed this week.” 

We thought this crisis was coming to an end on Friday but now face the prospect of severely curtailed trading through the busiest period of the year.

It comes on the back of news that 33 pubs had closed in Donegal since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is exactly the same number of pubs that closed in Dublin in the same period.

A recent spike in Covid-19 cases had led to much speculation that the proposed full reopening of society on October 22 would not go ahead. This was confirmed on Tuesday, and the VFI say that annoying mandatory table service will significantly reduce capacity in already struggling pubs.

The Federation says the decision not to ease restrictions is a direct result of Government failing to deal with the small percentage of people who remain unvaccinated and who have a disproportionate impact on hospitalisation numbers.

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: “The Government decision to keep restrictions in place until February at the earliest is another devastating blow to the pub trade. 

“Over 92% of people are vaccinated so we could have easily removed mandatory table service by limiting entry to customers with vaccine passes. Instead, government has guaranteed the closure of more pubs over the coming months.

The VFI says that mandatory table service will significantly reduce capacity in already struggling pubs. Some publicans will also choose to temporarily close their businesses as they are unable to break even in the current environment.

“The return of normal trading hours is simply a fig leaf for the fact bar counters remain off limits,” said Mr Cribben. 

“This restriction alone will mean pubs can’t operate at full capacity and will make continued trading impossible for many of our members.

“We also have to contend with the glaring anomaly of nightclubs reopening where, according to the Taoiseach, people will be permitted to dance while customers in pubs won’t be allowed sit at the bar counter.

“The pub trade has battled with uncertainty since March 2020 and today’s news will only deepen the worry for publicans and their staff. In a sector that is struggling to find and retain employees these developments will only exacerbate staffing problems.

“Where do we go from here? The Taoiseach says the current restrictions will remain in place for at least a further five months while business supports are ending just as the pressure increases on our members. If a 92% vaccination rate doesn’t get our members fully open then we’re in huge trouble.

 “We thought this crisis was coming to an end on Friday but now face the prospect of severely curtailed trading through the busiest period of the year. Government cannot allow the sector to limp on in this fashion and must come back with a concrete plan for the pub trade.”

Addressing the high number of pubs which have closed down in Donegal and across the country, Chief Executive of the Licenced Vintners Association Donall O’Keeffe stressed: “These pubs closed even with the government supports in place.”

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