Indoor hospitality re-opens, but the new guidelines come with issues raised and eventual problems

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PUBS across the country will welcome customers indoors today, many for the first time since March 2020.

Monday indoor hospitality will reopen for people who are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months, as well as children under 18 in their care.

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While reopening for indoor trading is hugely significant for the trade, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) says its vital customers cooperate with publicans and their staff who will be working under challenging conditions.

Today brings with it changing guidelines, which include;

• The EU Digital COVID Certificate or HSE COVID-19 Vaccination Record (as issued at vaccination centres) will be the primary evidence access indoor hospitality. Photo ID may also be asked for to verify.

• Customers will still be required to provide contact tracing details with the exception of those under 18. Contact name and telephone number will be securely retained for 28 days and will be compliant with GDPR.

• The time limit for sitting at tables has been removed. There is now no limit to the amount of time consumers can sit at tables. Businesses may decide to operate this approach.

• There is no requirement for pre-booking, however businesses may decide to operate using this approach.

• A maximum of 6 persons aged 13 or over are permitted at a table. This limit of 6 does not include accompanying children aged 12 or younger. Mingling between tables is still not allowed

• Face masks are still recommened to be worn by customers. All staff are still required.

• Counter service remains prohibited.

• There is no change to closing time – currently COVID-19 regulations require all premises to close at 11.30pm.

The VFI says the new guidelines are onerous and impractical to operate.

Over 3,000 pubs will reopen today with 25,000 staff signing off the PUP and heading back to work.

Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, says: “It’s a big day for the trade especially when you consider some of our members were closed for over 16 months. Unfortunately, the new guidelines government handed down to us will make it very difficult for publicans and staff to manage their indoor businesses. Our message to customers is simple: ‘please work with us as we get used to these new guidelines’.

“The guidelines are onerous and cumbersome for staff to implement. Pubs will have to record the personal details of every person entering the venue while keeping a separate, anonymous, record that confirms vaccine passes have been checked. It’s not a practical system for business owners to operate so we’re asking people to be patient, cooperate and please remember that publicans and their staff are only doing their job.

“The Government made it clear this was the only solution to get pubs open so it’s this or remain closed until October at the earliest. While we’re far from happy about how our members are reopening it’s important to remember this is only a temporary measure and our expectation is that the requirement to check vaccine certs will be removed as soon as possible.”

VFI President Paul Moynihan, who runs his family pub in Donard, Co Wicklow, says: “The reopening of indoor hospitality marks the end of an extremely challenging 16-month period that began on 15th March 2020 when all pubs were instructed to close in the face of the advancing pandemic.

“The key message I’ve received from publicans is that once we’re open we stay open. There can be no return to more lockdowns, as the consequences of such a move for the trade don’t bear thinking about,” concludes the VFI President.