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'Hard to survive' - dad on PUP was hoping for more

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Publican Sean McCarthy of Tequila Jack’s, Cork city

Publican Sean McCarthy of Tequila Jack’s, Cork city

Publican Sean McCarthy of Tequila Jack’s, Cork city

A father of three receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) said it is difficult for families to survive on €300 a week.

Sean McCarthy, co-owner of Tequila Jack's bar and restaurant in Cork city, had to let go a number of staff due to the latest restrictions.

"These are people who have mortgages and kids so €300 a week versus what their salary was... it's difficult to manage.

"The payment is a help but in the grand scheme of things I don't think it's enough," he said.

Debt

Mr McCarthy runs three other bar/restaurants that employed around 170 people before the pandemic hit.

He and his business partners spent around €6,000 to make the premises compliant with Covid-19 guidelines before reopening.

They even bought pods in July to help outdoor diners have a safe experience.

Two of the four businesses have remained open, serving food and drink outside.

"All that money has essentially gone out the window," he said.

"We owed a lot of suppliers money when we closed in March. When we reopened, we did new deals to help repay the debts, and now we're basically closed again and the debts are stacking up."

For business to return when bars and restaurants reopen properly again, Mr McCarthy believes the Government must introduce a dining-out subsidy similar to the one in the UK.

In August UK customers got a 50pc discount when they ate in restaurants registered with the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme.

"The big challenge for us is going to be getting people to come back out and socialise a second time. I don't think the same level of enthusiasm will be there."

Mr McCarthy welcomed the news that businesses hit by Covid restrictions will be eligible for up to €5,000 in support a week.

"The Government had to do something in terms of providing cash grants for businesses," he said.

He has worked in the industry for around 15 years and said the pandemic has put him under a lot of "mental pressure".

"There is a huge air of uncertainty around. Coming to work in our industry, there's a big social element as well. You're working with similar people of similar mindset.

"We encourage having fun when working, but now, if they're from a different county or living in an apartment staring at four walls, that social interaction with other people is gone again.

"Not one person of the 100 staff we invited back refused to come back. They were all so delighted but then we had to tell them their jobs were gone again. It was even harder the second time around than it was in March."

Many of the staff are senior people with full-time jobs while the remainder are college students working part-time or those on career breaks.

"It's hard to survive at the moment, but we're trying our best.

""I had been hopeful that the PUP would be reinstated to at least €350 a week, which would have made things easier."