THE COMBINATION of 8pm closing times and staff shortages due to people either getting Covid or isolating as close contacts is causing many Limerick businesses to shut up shop for January.
The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit, with pubs and smaller guest houses finding it difficult to continue under the circumstances.
Now the local branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) is calling on government to give some idea of what restrictions are in prospect for February and March.
Branch Chairman and Shannon hotelier, Dermot Kelly, is one of the people who decided to shut up shop to accommodation at the Shannon Springs Hotel.
He told the Limerick Post, “we had to take that decision. Between people isolating and the risk because the numbers are so high in Shannon, we couldn’t take the risk.”
The hotel is currently operating on take-away menus only in the food section of the business.
Mr Kelly is co-owner of the Shannon hotel which employs 75 people and is also general manager of the South Court Hotel in Limerick.
“We know the the 8pm closing time is in place until the end of January but we would call on the government to give us some indication of what will happen in February so that we can plan,” he said.
The Federation chairman said that he is well aware that many smaller businesses in Limerick have had to close albeit temporarily.
“If you’re running a pub of a guest house and staff are doing the right thing and isolating, you only have a small team of staff to draw on.
“We’re lucky in the South Court in that we have 90 people employed here and staff are everyone is being flexible and helping.
“But if you only have a few staff and you’re trying to operate with the 8pm closing, it makes sense to just close up. Who is going to go out to have few drinks before that time?
“Even so, you have to maintain the premises and there are business owners going in and cleaning the place themselves.”
Limerick City publican, Pat Flannery of Flannery’s Bar in Shannon Street, agrees with Mr Kelly.
In an interview with Live 95 Fm, he said “We seeing day to say more staff having to stay home and isolate.
“It’s a very strange situation and it’s definitely affecting our ability to deliver a service.
“Some businesses just won’t open for January until the curfew is lifted. They can’t continue to operate and offer staff their top rate.”
The latests figures for people receiving the PUP payment in Limerick bear out what has been said, with numbers up 16 per cent on the figure before Christmas and most of those being listed as working in the hospitality industry, followed by wholesale and retail trade and administrative and support services.
The latest figures show that 2,105 people were claiming the PUP payment last week compared to 1,817 on December 21.
At its peak on the February 9 last year, 17,106 were in receipt of the payment in Limerick.