– VFI publishes reopening template, calls for Government detail
– Pubs should open along with hotels for indoor trading
– Border businesses to suffer as customers will head North
On the day pubs in Northern Ireland were told they can resume indoor drinking and dining on 24th May, the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) says the Irish Government must immediately publish its plan to get the hospitality sector reopened here. In a significant move, similar to the reopening plan in England, all hospitality outlets in the North will reopen together.
Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, says: “The most significant message coming from the North is that all hospitality opens together, including pubs, hotels and restaurants. Similar to England there is no divide based on food. That must be replicated here and avoid the divisions created in 2020.
“There has been commentary from senior politicians here about allowing hotels reopen in June. Our message is clear that if indoor premises such as hotels are deemed safe it logically follows that, with the appropriate measures in place, a pub is also safe. All hospitality outlets must open together,” says Mr Cribben.
In the absence of any meaningful plan from Government, the VFI is publishing a reopening template that highlights the key metrics NPHET and Government must address to allow pubs reopen.
The VFI Chief Executive says: “Pubs in the North know they will reopen indoors on 24th May, which introduces a welcome degree of certainty and stability to the trade. That’s exactly the sort of approach we need here as publicans continue to feel abandoned by government.
“The reopening template highlights details Government need to provide to give our members some certainty,” adds Mr Cribben.
“The key to reopening is vaccinations and hospitalisation numbers. As our template illustrates, we need Government to tell us how many people need to be vaccinated to allow hospitality reopen. We also need to understand what level of hospitalisations will Government deem safe for our members to resume trading. This will give re-assurance to employees and hope to publicans.
The VFI is gravely concerned about how reopening in the North will impact businesses along the border.
“From 30th April, pubs in the North will resume outdoor drinking and dining so in a few short weeks our members in the border region will start to lose customers across the border. For how long is that sustainable? It’s another clear cut reason why Government must publish its reopening plan for hospitality immediately.
“England will reopen indoor drinking and dining on 17th May and has correctly abandoned the mandatory meal provision, while Northern Ireland will follow suit one week later. After being closed for over 14 months our members in the Republic deserve the same level of respect.
“For the sake of businesses across the country it’s vital this is the last lockdown. The reopening must be sustainable and carry a strong degree of confidence that progress towards a full reopening without the need for social distancing is the ultimate destination.
“If the delay in publishing a reopening plan continues any longer, we are calling on Government to double the CRSS payment to publicans. As we approach the ‘make or break’ summer season, the Government must either provide confidence to the trade through a sustainable reopening plan or else increase supports,” concludes Mr Cribben.