Coronavirus: Pub body will urge members to close if directed by the State
Varadkar may seek enforcement powers on mass gatherings
Time may be called by Government who may seek enforcement powers on mass gatherings in pubs such as these in Donegal. Pictures by Bill Heaney
The Vintners Federation of Ireland will urge the 4,000 pubs in its membership to close if so directed by State officials following a meeting with Government later today, the group said.
It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government may seek enforcement powers to stop mass gatherings in pubs and clubs. He was reacting to images showing a packed Dublin bar over the weekend.
Mr Varadkar tweeted on Sunday morning that the Government’s direction that “no indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people applies to pubs and clubs.”
He said he has asked the State’s National Public Health Emergency Team for “further expert guidance on this” and that he “may seek enforcement powers from Dáil/Seanad.”
“People who have been out this weekend should avoid physical contact with seniors or people with chronic diseases. You could make them very, very sick,” Mr Varadkar tweeted.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners’ Association will meet Government today to seek clarity on the guidelines on social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak in light of how the directions discouraging indoor gatherings are not working.
The two representative groups, which together represent most of the country’s estimated 7,000 pubs, will meet the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys in Government Buildings at 3pm today.
“We are seeking urgent clarity on the situation regarding pubs and the guidelines on social distancing and what has been scant guidelines on how publicans can implement them. We have seen that play out and it is not working,” said a spokesman for the vintners’ federation.
The LVA, the representative body for Dublin pubs, said that it had been seeking clarity from the Government since it announced that all indoor gatherings of more than 100 people should be cancelled given that the current social distancing guidelines were “unworkable in a pub setting.”
The VFI spokesman said that there was a “contradiction” in the messages from Government last week on the guidelines when it told people to distance themselves from others and not congregate indoors in groups of more than 100 but decided not to close pubs.
He said that it was easier for restaurants to enforce social distancing because they could take away tables, but the situation for pubs was much more difficult to manage.
Irish pubs – time for a parting glass until crisis is over?
The LVA condemned Dublin pubs that flouted the guidelines over the weekend but said that most bars in the city took “responsible actions” as “being seriously irresponsible.”
“Their behaviour is completely and utterly unacceptable,” said the LVA.
A large number of pubs decided to ”close of their own volition”, while others were over the weekend “seeking to follow the guidelines to the best of their ability by limiting numbers, implementing strict hygiene protocol and spacing out tables,” the group added.
”This is a national emergency. We have a responsibility to the wider community and our fellow citizens. A pub clearly flouting the guidelines is spectacularly irresponsible,” he said.
The federation said that the impact of pub closures would be “catastrophic” on small businesses like bars. He called for financial support to help pubs over the coronavirus outbreak.
A total of 129 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic, after 39 new cases were announced on Saturday evening, along with a second death in a patient who was infected with coronavirus. There are 163 cases on the island of Ireland after five new cases were confirmed in Northern Ireland on Saturday bringing the total number of cases there to 34.
Images shared on social media of a packed pub in Temple Bar in Dublin city centre sparked public outrage that some members of the public were not following the Government’s guidance on social distancing to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has described the video circulating on social media as an “insult” to the efforts of nurses and doctors working to prepare for a pandemic.
It comes as a growing number of pubs and restaurants have decided to close their doors due to coronavirus, some finding it difficult to implement social distancing measures.
The head of the s Restaurants Association of Ireland has urged the Government to announce “a lockdown” of all licensed premises for at least two weeks.
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, made the call after making a dramatic appeal for action to the Government on Saturday, warning that “social distancing” was not being observed by customers.
Staff were being put at risk, he said in a posted tweeted on social media. “The decisions we make in the next two weeks will be for the next 100 years in the country. We need to make tough, tough decisions now for the safety of people, our families, our staff and our nation,” Mr Cummins told The Irish Times on Sunday morning.
“What I am hoping is that the Government just trigger a lockdown and just go for it. We need a bit of leadership on this. Just tell us: the people need to be told you can’t do it, you cannot congregate in areas. Just do it. It is too serious now. We just need to do the right thing.”
The representative of the country’s restaurant industry called on the country’s banks to introduce a moratorium on all personal loans and personal guarantees on loans for at least two weeks until the Government “give a green light that we are out of an emergency.”
“We have to ensure that there is no stress on people’s lives from the banks,” he said. “Do we want to be like Italy? That is the question: do we want to be like Italy?”
Coronavirus is rampant in some areas. Painting by Gemma Woods.
Close the Pubs
On Thursday the Government called for gatherings of more than 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors to be cancelled.
However it has been left up to pubs to decide themselves if they will close or limit the numbers they allow into their premises as part of efforts to deal with coronavirus.
However on Saturday the State’s Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, delivered a strong warning about compliance with social distancing measures. “There are a lot of anecdotal reports of busy restaurants and pubs. It’s important to get the message out. Listen to the message, take personal responsibility… reduce as much as possible social activity.”
There has also been a growing call on social media for pubs to close their doors with the hashtag #CloseThePubs trending on social media.
Among them oncologist Professor John Crown who tweeted on Saturday night. “The bars and club need to be closed tomorrow morning- not at some future date. Delay is very unwise and very unfamiliar. Some very heroic ICU, respiratory and infectious disease nurses, doctors and other staff are now placing themselves in harms way
Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin tweeted “ A message to those in our pubs and restaurants who are ignoring #COVI 19 recommendations on social distancing. You may think you’re fit and healthy and unstoppable, but you’re jeopardising people who aren’t. Please think of them and follow the advice. We can beat this together.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted: “Today we had a second #coronavirus death. The virus is here and spreading. This is a public health emergency. It is important to stay at home and keep all contact to a minimum. So no parties, no gigs, no pubs, no clubs.Stay home. Stay apart from people. Stay in touch with people.”
On Saturday Grogan’s in Dublin was among several pubs to announces it is closing its door for the next fortnight due to coronavirus restrictions.
In a statement posted on its Twitter page, the management of Grogan’s Castle Lounge on William Street said that due to the “small size of our pub it is impossible to ensure our customers and staff keep the recommended social distancing”. It said it would close on Saturday night until March 29th.
It said the decision was made following advice from the Government and Licensed Vintners’ Association in relation to public gatherings.
Another pub set to close is Anseo. In a statement on its Facebook page on Saturday, Anseo on Camden Street’s management said “after discussing the situation at length” it too has decided to close until March 29th.
One of Cork’s most successful publicans has decided to temporarily close over a dozen of his pubs in Cork for the next two weeks in response to calls for a public shut down to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Benny McCabe, who owns the Rising Sons Brewery on Cornmarket Street and The Crane Lane Theatre as well as such landmark Cork pubs as The Oval, The Mutton Lane Inn, El Fenix and Sin E, made the announcement via Facebook.