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Martin in call for an end to pub crawl era but bars still in dark

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin (right) at a fundraising cycle at the Mater Hospital in Dublin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin (right) at a fundraising cycle at the Mater Hospital in Dublin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin (right) at a fundraising cycle at the Mater Hospital in Dublin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has signalled the end of the traditional night out even when so-called 'wet' pubs are allowed to reopen.

People will be told to limit their socialising with others, and reduce movement between venues in the new Covid era.

The Government fears a return of the pub crawl if and when more bars reopen, particularly because patrons won't be having a meal.

It is expected the €9 meal rule will only be abolished when 'wet' pubs eventually reopen. But controversial rules on recording every meal could be abolished within 10 days.

Limits

Mr Martin admitted there are "limits to how you can regulate behaviour". He said Government will be relying more on people's own "personal behaviour".

There is "growing anger" among rural publicans and that is teetering on a protest movement - as 'wet' pubs mark almost half-a-year of closure.

A small protest took place in Dublin city centre on Thursday by Monaghan Publicans For Common Sense.

The Herald understands discussions have been taking place across rural Ireland. Larger protests are also being discussed to highlight how many are struggling financially after the long closures.

However, ministers have also been warned that their eventual reopening will have public health implications, and could prompt the return of mixing in great numbers, or even the pub crawl.

They are currently considering how to issue advice to people to demonstrate personal responsibility.

This will mean many of the activities of a traditional night out will be curtailed - from visiting several venues, to meeting new people, to mixing in numbers.

But scrapping the €9 meal requirement - which was never recommended by Nphet in the first place - will be necessary to at least balance customer numbers when 'wet' pubs reopen.

It comes as there were signs the new 28-day retention of individual food receipts in gastropubs - bitterly resented by the hospitality sector - could be dropped in just 10 days.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Irish Independent: "This regulation remains in place until September 13, which is when it expires.

"At that point, we'll make a decision as to whether it needs to continue or not. Hopefully, well I won't say hopefully, because what I think is another matter, but that's where we stand at the moment."

He added: "I want to clarify that there is no requirement for restaurants or pubs to keep evidence of every individual's meal and what it was, but instead to show that a substantial meal was served."

Taoiseach Mr Martin said the communication of the new regulation "could have been better", while insisting the law was "misinterpreted and misrepresented" by critics.

He said the Government had meanwhile received new guidance on pubs and it will be working with the sector to enable the reopening of the pubs "in due course".

Mr Martin was asked about how to discourage pub crawls and he initially feigned disbelief: "We don't do pub crawls anymore do we?"

However, he added that the €9 meal rule for pubs was brought in with a view to keeping people seated along with time limits.

Mr Martin and public health officials are worried about people congregating and the need to reduce social contact.

"In the event of pubs reopening again, they want to make sure people are in a seated situation, there's a whole range of guidelines that they've issued."

The Government wants to enable pubs to reopen, Mr Martin said.

Put to him that pub crawls will be very difficult to prevent he replied: "There are limits to how you can regulate behaviour.

"We can't over-regulate, and we don't want to. We want to get a fair situation for all."

He added: "Above all, I think we have to really emphasise the importance of personal behaviour in preventing the spread of this virus.

"That's the key objective of the plan and we want to protect lives as well as protecting livelihoods. That is important."