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'Last-minute shutdown of pubs and restaurants was absolutely bonkers'

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Veteran publican, restaurateur and hotelier Louis Fitzgerald blames the Government for the increase in house parties

Veteran publican, restaurateur and hotelier Louis Fitzgerald blames the Government for the increase in house parties

Veteran publican, restaurateur and hotelier Louis Fitzgerald blames the Government for the increase in house parties

One of the country's most successful publicans has said the Government's announcement on Friday to shut down Dublin pubs was "absolutely bonkers" with punters now travelling outside the capital to socialise.

Louis Fitzgerald, who operates some 24 bars, hotels and restaurants across the country and employs hundreds of workers, described it as the biggest heartbreak in his 50 years within the hospitality sector.

The veteran businessman told the Herald that pubs and restaurants have been treated "very badly" by the Government who he said are to blame for an increase in house parties amid the current pandemic.

For the next three weeks pubs in the capital cannot serve indoors while so-called 'wet pubs' across the country can reopen from today.

Restrictions

Speaking from the Roost bar in Maynooth, one of his few premises to remain fully operational in line with Government guidelines, Mr Fitzgerald said more notice should have been given for businesses to prepare for the new restrictions introduced in Dublin.

"The first lockdown, OK it came at very short notice and cost us an awful lot of money with half a day of notice.

"But being told at 6pm last Friday evening that Dublin was closing down. Most of my business is in Dublin, restaurants, bars etc," he said.

"To be informed at 6pm or thereabouts we were being closed down is absolutely bonkers in terms of running a business, that decision could have been made on the Monday previously and given everybody a chance.

"In my 50 years in business it was the biggest heartbreak I had, was last Friday evening with Dublin being locked down for a second time, and the way the hospitality industry got treated. It was a shambles.

"Sometimes I wonder how smaller family premises, how many of them are going to survive if this is going to continue, shutdown after shutdown.

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Louis outside Roost Bar

Louis outside Roost Bar

Louis outside Roost Bar

One of Mr Fitzgerald's operations managers for Dublin and Kildare, Damien Kelly, said that over the weekend there were people from the capital travelling to Kildare pubs after the new restrictions came into affect.

"I was around all the pubs last night. I started in Tallaght where we had no one in the pubs. I went in to The Penny Hill in Lucan, probably one of the most successful pubs we've had in the west Dublin area. It was heart-breaking to go in and see it empty.

"I got into the car and drove five minutes to Maynooth and the place was alive, restaurants were busy, every pub in the town was busy.

"There were a lot of familiar faces that I recognised not from Maynooth. A lot of Palmerstonians and Lucan people here, that was their solution to the problem thrown at them," he said.

Licensed premises in the capital face being shut for three weeks, except in circumstances where they offer takeaway or outdoor dining for up to 15 people.

Mr Fitzgerald said that licensed premises were offering a controlled environment in the capital, which has now been taken away, and has led to a rise in house parties.

Blame

"The Government, in the way they have managed the whole setup, they are the people that have created house parties.

"They're the creator. If anyone asked me who are the creator; the Government have only themselves to blame in the manner in which they closed the hospitality industry.

"There was a real opportunity to allow life to go on in a normal fashion. What did they do? They brought in a guillotine and guillotined everything.

"They created these house parties. They shouldn't be blaming anyone else on television every second day of the week. They can look in the mirror and say 'We caused it'".