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Publicans angry at new plans to force all dining outdoors

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Thomas Gibney, manager at Gibney’s Pub in Malahide
sitting outside the family-run pub

Thomas Gibney, manager at Gibney’s Pub in Malahide sitting outside the family-run pub

Thomas Gibney, manager at Gibney’s Pub in Malahide sitting outside the family-run pub

Restaurants and pubs may only be allowed to offer takeaway service and outdoor dining when new Covid-19 restrictions are introduced in Dublin.

The National Public Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommend banning indoor dining in restaurants and pubs for the next three weeks.

Restaurant and pub representatives said the ban would be "hospitality lockdown by stealth".

Nphet last week recommended that pubs in Dublin that do not serve food should not be allowed open next week along with those outside the capital.

Nphet's new recommendation to increase restrictions in Dublin were reviewed by the newly established Covid-19 Oversight Group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach secretary general Martin Fraser.

The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 will today review the advice ahead of a Cabinet meeting due to take place later in the day.

It is widely expected Dublin will be the first county to be moved into level three restrictions today due to the spread of the virus in the capital.

The Government's new plan for living with the virus calls for "additional restrictions for indoor dining" for restaurants and bars that serve food.

However, the Government is considering rules for Dublin which would only allow outside dining and takeaway service following Nphet's recommendation.

A senior Government source said the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 will consider introducing rules similar to those imposed on people living in Kildare, Laois on Offaly.

Restaurants and pubs in the midland counties were only allowed serve up to 15 people outdoors.

There was a robust debate during Nphet meeting yesterday about new restrictions for pubs.

It is understood some member suggested new indoor rules should be considered such as limiting customers to just one household per table or insisting two metres social distancing in every premises. There was resistance at the meeting to proposals to only allow restaurants and pubs to serve outdoors.

However, last night, the prospect of closing indoor dining was being considered in Government. The move would be a hammer blow to the hospitality sector in the capital, which is already struggling due the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Struggling

Restaurant and Vintner representatives reacted angrily to the suggestion their members may only be able to serve outside.

Restaurant Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the move would be a "hospitality lockdown by stealth".

"If the restrictions move to outdoor dining only plus takeaway for restaurants this will wipe out many businesses across the capital who are currently struggling financially," Mr Cummins said.

"This puts every restaurant across the capital on the verge of permanent closure and thousands of job losses," he added.

A Licensed Vintners Association spokesperson said the ban on indoor dining is just "another means of shutting down" pubs.

"According to the latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre data there are zero open outbreaks associated with pubs," he said.

"How does punishing the pubs help combat a rise in infections that clearly aren't coming from pubs - most of which are still closed, their doors shut by order of the Government for over six months?

"Is anyone going to start asking Nphet why they are focusing on the hospitality sector when the outbreaks are clearly in other settings?" the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Dublin pubs could be open "in a couple of weeks' time," if the opening of rural establishments goes according to plan.

"That will, hopefully, allow pubs in Dublin to follow suit in a couple of weeks' time," Mr Varadkar said.

Pubs in Dublin that don't serve food had been due to re-open but will now have to wait for at least another three weeks.