01 Dec 2021

Donegal nightclub operators waiting clarification on rules for reopening

Licensed industry left in the dark

Nightclub opening

Staff members Pauric Carr and Edwina Cassidy from the Abbey Hotel, Donegal Town getting ready for the new extended hours for bars and the reopening of nightclubs this weekend PICTURE: Thomas Gallagher

Nightclub operators in Donegal were last night waiting for clarification from the Government on the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions before deciding whether to open at the weekend for the first time in almost 600 days.
Government officials were meeting representatives of the hospitality sector on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the latest relaxation of measures which come into effect from Friday.
The latest easing, which was announced on Tuesday, allows for the reopening of nightclubs and live entertainment.
The meeting was aimed at allaying confusion about the new guidelines.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said on Wednesday she was confident the anomalies surrounding the reopening of nightclubs and live music venues would be resolved within 24 hours.
Letterkenny publican Mark Crossan, who owns the Pulse and Voodoo nightclubs, said he would not know until guidelines were received from the Government whether or not the venues would reopen.
“We are hoping to open but we don’t know,” he said.
“All I can say is that we will be working within the Government guidelines at the weekend if we open. We are under pressure but we will be ready to open. Everyone wants to be open properly but everyone has to be safe. They will have to come out and give us guidelines. We have been closed 583 days.”

READ ALSO: Latest announcement 'a devastating blow' for Donegal pubs

In Donegal Town, the nightclub at the Abbey Hotel will not be opening this weekend but late-night live music will be performed in the bar until 2am due to the easing of restrictions.
Elaine McInaw, sales and marketing manager at the Abbey and Central Hotels, said they had decided not to open the nightclub at the weekend but “go with the Abbey Bar for now and see how we get on with that”.
There are grey areas and more clarification was being waited on, she said.
“People just want to get out and have proper live music and they will be delighted that we don’t have a curfew and that is all lifted. We are delighted we are getting people back.”
The opening times of pubs will be extended to 12.30am at the weekend but restrictions including the requirement for vaccine passports and table service only remain.
Treasurer of the Donegal branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland Martin Harley said the concern about the latest easing is that the measures will remain in place until February, “so it is going to be a difficult Christmas”.
The extent of the easing of the restriction was disappointing but not surprising due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
“It is the way it is. We were not expecting anything else with the way things are,” he said. The extension of the restrictions could see more pubs in the county close,” he said.
“It could make a lot of people’s minds up about leaving the industry. A lot of people will not go back.”
In the announcement on Tuesday, the Government held back from lifting Covid-19 restrictions completely in the face of rising case numbers and increasing pressures on hospitals.
Sporting events in the county this weekend will see the return of full capacity for stadiums.
A full capacity of 4,200 will be permitted when Finn Harps take on Sligo Rovers in the north-west derby at Finn Park on Saturday. Semi-finals in the Donegal Senior Football Championship and Intermediate Championship will also be allowed full capacity.
Weddings will be no longer have a restriction on numbers, along with religious services, but with all other protective measures remaining in place.
The return to workplaces will continue on a phased and cautious basis for specific business requirements.
No new measures have been introduced by the Government, however, the requirement for a EU Digital Covid Certificate (Covid-19 pass), vaccine or recovery certificate for indoor hospitality and events remains.
The use of face masks and social distancing will remain in place until 2022.
Announcing the easing of restrictions on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said rising Covid numbers are “a cause for concern” but that it was a “timely reminder” of how dangerous the virus remains and the need for ongoing vigilance”.
Mr Martin also confirmed there will be an “enhanced role” for the use of antigen testing throughout society.
He said the progress made over the course of the last year is “real and tangible and has to be protected.”
He said: “The changes give us the space for the next steps towards normality we take to be safe and sustainable.”
For indoor live music, drama, live entertainment and sporting events audience, spectators should be fully seated with standing permitted at their seats.
Specific guidance will be developed for nightclubs setting out appropriate protective measures. This will involve Covid-19 passes, contact tracing data collection and wearing of face masks except when eating, drinking and dancing.
Covid-19 passes and fixed capacity limits will not apply for outdoor events. However, sectors should ensure appropriate protective measures are in place.
Organisers of indoor and outdoor group activities should ensure that appropriate protective measures are in place, and where indoor groups have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people indoors, pods of six should apply. Fixed capacity limits will not apply to these indoor and outdoor group activities.
Return to workplaces will continue on a phased and cautious basis for specific business requirements.

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