Many rural pubs are facing the prospect of permanent closure due to government’s decision not to allow them to reopen Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice has warned.
The government decided on Tuesday that the country will not proceed to Phase 4 of reopening on August 10 as was previously planned.
This means that pubs which do not serve food will not be allowed to reopen, and restrictions on the size of gatherings stay the same, no more than 50 people indoors, or 200 people outdoors.
In addition it was also announced this week that restaurants and pubs which do serve food may not stay open any later than 11pm from next Monday.
Deputy Fitzmaurice said that “frustration is growing” within the pubs industry each day, after twice now expecting to be allowed to reopen, only to have that changed shortly before the due date.
Publicans have already lost out on five months of revenue, and “bills still need to be paid” despite the pandemic.
“You also have to take into account the fact that publicans have spent considerable sums of money on preparing their premises for social distancing when they do get the green light to reopen – having installed hand sanitizers, new signage and screens”
“Publicans are more than willing to open responsibly and adhere to practical restrictions and guidelines,” Michael Fitzmaurice said.
“These business know the majority of their clientele and wouldn’t risk spreading the disease by being careless or acting irresponsibly.”
There are roughly 3,500 pubs around the country which are not allowed to reopen now, supporting approximately 30,000 jobs in the sector.
Without “immediate action” many of those pubs many never reopen Fitzmaurice said, adding that the government must provide immediate supports for the industry.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday that he knew this decision would be a “bitter disappointment” to many people, and a “blow” to pub owners.
But the Taoiseach said that international evidence has shown that reopening pubs and nightclubs too early leads to an increase in community transmission of the virus.
Deputy Fitzmaurice said that it is unfair to speak of pubs and nightclubs in the same vein, arguing that it is much easier for a publican to control customers on their premises than in a nightclub.