Publicans who were all ready to re-open their doors and welcome back their valued customers last Monday, July 20, have expressed their disappointment and anger at the late decision to postpone the re-opening date until August 10 next.
Alan O'Shea, The Arch Bar, Jamestown expressed his frustration at the late timing of the Government's decision to postpone the re-opening of the pubs.
He described the whole thing as “a mess” and said they had received an order of kegs of Guinness in preparation for re-opening but those will now have to be returned to the brewery.
Alan said it must be very frustrating for pubs with full time staff who were ready to re-open.
“We're a small pub. If you were in any other business and you closed for five months, would you bother reopening again?” he asked.
The Arch Bar, Jamestown
The Arch Bar is a small rural pub like many others in the county and Alan said a lot of the locals would drop in for three or four pints but would come in for the craic and to have a chat and talk about what's going on around the village.
“People who live on their own especially would come in for the news, that's a big aspect of it, that type of interaction,” he said.
Alan said other businesses which have been allowed to re-open are not being penalised like those in the pub trade.
He was scathing of the role played by the VFI and described them as “a waste of time.”
He said they, like many others, had done a back to work online course for the bar trade, organised by the VFI, and he described this as “another waste of time.”
“They think they have power but they have no power at all,” he said.
“We're back in limbo land again. If the figures go up again we're not going to open on August 10,” he said.
Expressing his disappointment, he said they did everything they were asked to do from day one and it is just very annoying to be told they now can't re-open.
He said a lot of pubs would have carried out work in expectation of returning, putting in screens, furniture, etc but that has all been for nothing now for another few weeks, at least.
Alan said social distancing is a matter of personal responsibility and people needed to take responsibility themselves.
He said the whole summer season has been affected and a place like Jamestown on the banks of the Shannon was losing visitors as a result.
Liam Taylor, Taylor's Bar, Drumsna said he was disappointed with the decision not to allow the re-opening of pubs and he was prepared to open on Monday.
He had fresh kegs and stock ordered and ready to go but said there was probably a fear in the government and among the health experts about the August Bank Holiday and that was probably one of the reasons to push out the date a bit further.
Liam said the big drinks companies have been more than helpful in taking back the stock and were not putting publicans under any pressure in that regard.
Liam said he would have no problem with social distancing in his own pub any night from Monday to Friday but said it was the big nights like 21st birthday parties or the day after a local wedding that would cause the most difficulty.
He too has a local clientele that would come into the pub for a chat, especially now that the club football action is back.
Liam also looks after his regulars and would drop some of them home afterwards, a service he can no longer provide due to the current restrictions.
Taylor's Bar, Drumsna
He said these people are now “totally isolated” and that is very hard on them.
He is hoping that the re-opening now goes ahead on August 10 but doesn't think it actually will.
“It's shocking, you just don't know where you stand,” he said.
Liam also mentioned the large amount of house parties taking place and the huge surge in off-sales and remarked that the re-opening of pubs is not going to be the cause of the spread of Covid.
Brendan Whelan of Ging's Bar, Carrick-on-Shannon said his main criticism was the Government's decision to leave it until the last minute to make the announcement not to re-open which he said was very unfair on publicans.
Like many other publicans, Brendan has spent weeks getting his pub prepared for re-opening, at no little cost, only for the late decision to delay the re-opening.
“A lot of pubs are after doing a lot of work, but they're still closed,” he said.
He said if they are going to extend the closure then the Government needs to come out earlier and say it.
Ging's is normally a busy spot by the Shannon
Brendan said that if the figures start to go up in the next couple of weeks he said there isn't a hope they will re-open on August 10.
Ging's with its picturesque riverside garden would normally be a huge attraction during good spells of weather and Brendan said this summer season has been lost now.
He said the pub trade needs some sort of assistance from the Government and said they have to do something for the publicans with regards to VAT which he described as “absolutely crazy.”
He said business loans are the last thing anyone wants right now.
Heraghty's Bar in Manorhamilton has been an institution on the town's Main Street for many, many years.
Daragh Heraghty said they were disappointed with the postponement of the reopening of pubs.
“We had placed orders for stock and we had spent a lot of time preparing the pub to reopen. But news started to filter through a few days before the announcement so we were not totally surprised that the decision had been made to postpone Phase 4,” he said.
“We are in a situation now where we still have no income but at the same time we fully support the measures that have to be taken to stop Covid-19,” he said.
“These are difficult times and the government has to take difficult decisions to protect people”.
He said that even if the bar had been able to open on Monday as planned, with social distancing rules “our income would have been substantially down. We would basically be running at a huge loss.”
While he said that bearing this sort of loss of income would be manageable in the short term once pubs reopen, “it isn’t something that we can sustain in the long term”.
Heraghty's Bar, Manorhamilton
“I feel that something will have to be done on the VAT rate. The reality is that even when we open, we’ll be running the bar but we won’t even be making minimum wage and with redacted capacity there is no way that we can make up a shortfall. We also won’t be able to have parties, meetings or other events which we have relied upon in the past to make an income.
“This is about more than just when we get to reopen, it’s about ensuring the survival of family run pubs. We want to reopen and to support our regulars.
“We want to provide a service but you cannot run a pub, putting in 100 hours of work a week and not make a living from it. That’s just not going to be sustainable in the long run.”
Daragh said he completely understood the difficult decision that some publicans will be facing in the coming weeks and months about the future of their business.
“There will be a lot of pubs which won’t reopen. People cannot be closed for this length of time, they cannot have the additional costs of making sure they meet social distancing guidelines and then still be expected to keep going without some form of support.
“The Government has to reduce the VAT rate to 5% to help pubs. We are a rural pub and we charge €4 for a pint of Guinness. We are not a bar in a tourist area like Galway that can bear a price increase. We have to wear the costs of this alone,” he said.
“In the long term it is clear this situation will have to be revisited by the government. As long as there is no vaccine people will be hesitant to come out. A reduction in the VAT rate would at least help us to survive.
“I’m not saying the VAT rate should be reduced for the next 20 years, but we do need a period with a reduced rate and that needs to be brought in as soon as possible.”
Other publicans and pub managers highlighted their frustration at the situation on social media
The Dugout Bar in Aughavas is a rural pub which is the hub of the local community. On the pub Facebook page bar manager,
Pauline Harte, noted: “We had everything in place to open on Monday (July 20) even though we were given no government guidelines we had to make a start because these things take time.
“What is so annoying is that we could not have been told this last week, we had to just assume we would open on Monday so I had to put my Guinness and Heineken order in or we would of been a bar with no beer if we were to open on 20th July.
“So my loyal customers I hope you can wait for another 3 weeks I can't wait to see you all and let's hope the rest of the country behave themselves so we can try and get back to some kind of normal.”