Government told to "stop the mixed messaging" and make decision on return of indoor hospitality this week
“There have been mixed messages coming from the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Health... it has to stop."
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has called on the government to make a decision on the reopening of indoor hospitality this week.
While indoor services in pubs and restaurants are still set to return on 5 July, the emergence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has led to fears that their reopening could be postponed.
While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday that Ireland is "still on track" to further ease Covid-19 restrictions on 5 July, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly stated on Wednesday it was "too early to say" if the return of indoor pubs and restaurants will be delayed.
It has been stated a final decision on the reopening will be made on Friday 2 July, though the LVA has said that an announcement made then will be too late if the return of indoor service is to take place on 5 July, three days later.
In a statement, the vintners' group also called on the government "to stop the mixed messaging", stating that there have been different views expressed on the matter by the Tánaiste and the Health Minister, as well as Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister Damien English in the space of 48 hours.
The LVA said: "Approximately 40%+ of the pubs in Ireland are currently not able to provide outdoor service, with some of these not having opened their doors for 464 consecutive days and counting.
"The government had widely flagged that indoor service would resume for pubs and other hospitality businesses on 5 July. However, there is now widespread doubt throughout the sector about what is to happen following the latest bout of contradictory messages coming from government."
Chief Executive of the LVA, Donall O’Keeffe, stated the government cannot reasonably expect the entire hospitality industry to wait until 2 July for a decision and then be in a position to potentially reopen three days later.
He said: "This is not practical and it is not how these businesses operate. They need to make decisions in relation to hiring staff, ordering stock and supplies, getting their premises ready to open. If all of that is to proceed they need to have sufficient notice.
“You would think the government would be aware of this and the pressures they are unnecessarily placing on everyone in the hospitality sector after what has been going on for the last 15 months. The hospitality sector deserves more respect than that to have such a massive decision left until the last minute.
“There have been mixed messages coming from the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Health and Minister English over the last 48 hours. It has to stop.
"The tens of thousands of people in hospitality who are awaiting news of whether we will get to provide indoor service from 5 July shouldn’t be left second guessing which member of Cabinet they should believe."
Echoing the LVA's comments, Vintners' Federation of Ireland's Chief Executive Padraig Cribben claimed any delay in the return of hospitality would "devastate the trade".
He said: “The comments from government ministers that 5 July reopening may be delayed is causing huge upset and concern in the hospitality sector. With only two weeks to go, it’s not acceptable to treat our members in this manner.
“There are just eight weeks in the summer season for pubs to recoup some of the massive losses accumulated over the past 15 months, so to tell publicans they may lose any of those weeks will devastate the trade.
"The business generated in July and August will sustain most pubs through the winter and into next year so for government to delay reopening during the summer will impact the sector to a much greater degree than, for instance, a delay in January.
“Publicans are busy rehiring staff and ordering stock so this new uncertainty places them in an impossible position. They need immediate confirmation that reopening on 5 July will proceed as planned.
"The fact government will not make a final decision until Friday, 2 July – just three days before reopening – illustrates how detached ministers are from the realities of running a business. The mental stress this uncertainty is placing on our members cannot be overstated."