There is widespread shock and anger across the hospitality sector this afternoon after the Taoiseach announced that indoor dining will not go ahead as planned on 5 July.
Publicans, cafe owners and restaurateurs are also expressing their strong opposition to new plans to restrict indoor dining to people who are vaccinated as well as those who have recovered from COVID-19.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland and the Vintners Association of Ireland both criticised NPHET’s recommendation, describing it as flawed, unworkable and discriminatory.
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said that the Government has consistently stated it would not introduce this type of measure, and that this sudden U-turn has left the pub trade furious.
“There is confusion and overwhelming anger among our members as to how pubs in the North can open safely for indoor trading since 24 May while the UK Government is removing all restrictions in the next three weeks,” said Mr Cribben.
The VFI chief also asked why Ireland taking such a markedly different, more conservative approach towards dealing with the pandemic.
“Even some high profile medical experts are questioning this approach, such as David Nabarro of the World Health Organisation who says if you use vaccine status as a requirement for entry, you’re also blocking out an awful lot of people from having any chance of participating,” he said.
“Figures from the UK reveal that while case numbers are rising across Britain on a pro rata basis there are fewer hospital admissions, which is their green light for removing all restrictions.”
He said that there is “nothing to suggest we will have a different experience so to increase restrictions here as the rest of Europe opens up is simply perverse.”
CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins hit out at the plans this afternoon, explaining that restaurant, pub and café owners will now be placed in the complex position of allowing vaccinated customers enter indoors and restricting non-vaccinated customers to outdoor dining.
“Such a practice of refusing access to goods and services in currently illegal under equality acts,” he said.
“The hospitality sector contains a diverse range of workers by age with front of house mostly the unvaccinated age groups, who will now be asked to refuse access to their peers?”
Mr Cummins said that this makes no sense and will restrict indoor dining to those in the 40 – 60 age groups who are fully vaccinated whilst the hotel across the street has families and guests dining indoors since 2nd June.
“We are calling on the Government to reopen indoor hospitality with immediate effect in line with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and across Europe.”