The Government decision to move the entire country to Level Three will see 50,000 bar staff lose their jobs in another devastating development for the pub sector in a year where it has borne the brunt of lockdown restrictions and closures. Many pubs had only reopened two weeks ago after closing on 15th March.
There is now an urgent need for Government to announce immediate additional support for the pub trade including a substantial increase in the Restart Grant, although the VFI is warning there cannot be a repeat of the situation in Donegal, which was moved to Level Three 10 days ago, where pubs are excluded from the 30% ‘top up’ grant because technically they remain open. (Although Level Three restrictions refer to pubs remaining open, the reality is the majority will close as outdoor service limited to 15 customers is not a viable proposition for most hospitality businesses especially as winter approaches.)
VFI Chief Executive, Padraig Cribben, states: “It’s impossible to overstate the impact this news will have on publicans across the country. They now join their colleagues in Donegal and Dublin on Level Three with all the uncertainty that entails. We also face the grim fact that over 50,000 people will once again have to sign-on this week.
“There now must be an immediate return to the original Pandemic Unemployment Payment for pub staff along with liquidity supports that will allow our members re-establish their businesses once restrictions are removed. As a customer-focused sector, disproportionally impacted by restrictions, the very least publicans require is an emergency bailout fund that will support our members until they can return to normal trading conditions.
“There was some hope when pubs reopened two weeks ago they could trade their way to a successful Christmas period but that looks impossible now. We are facing the prospect of being closed for at least nine months of 2020, a fact that Government needs to address.
“While Government say these restrictions will remain in place for three weeks, we have learnt from bitter experience that reopening dates can move at the last minute. Our members face another prolonged bout of uncertainty at the worst possible time. Next week’s Budget is a crucial opportunity for Government to show its commitment to the pub sector by announcing a series of measures that will restore confidence to a battered trade.” concludes Mr Cribben.