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Publicans call time on Failte Ireland's guidelines to reopen pubs on June 29

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Skerries bar owner Ollie Grimes has criticised the proposed measures

Skerries bar owner Ollie Grimes has criticised the proposed measures

Skerries bar owner Ollie Grimes has criticised the proposed measures

Dublin pub owners are unhappy at plans that will insist they serve a "substantial meal" and limit the time customers can spend on the premises.

It comes after Failte Ireland revealed it was considering guidelines that would allow pubs serving food to reopen at the end of this month.

However, publicans are concerned over binge drinking in the allowed 90 minutes, what to do during sports events and how to treat regulars.

Publican Ollie Grimes, who owns Ollie's Place in Skerries, said the doors to his pub and restaurant will remain closed until the end of July because the proposed restrictions allowing bars to reopen on June 29 are "too onerous".

Unworkable

Failte Ireland this week suggested pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reduce social-distancing to one metre if they limit patrons to 90 minutes inside their premises and discourage walk-ins without bookings.

Mr Grimes said even a two-hour time limit would be unworkable, especially if there is a sports match on and "you have 50 people arriving at the same time".

He fears the time limit will not only discourage people from bothering to go out at all, but that "setting a stopwatch" will encourage binge-drinking.

There is also nothing to stop people from going on a pub crawl when their 90 minutes are up at one pub.

"It's no good to us whatsoever," he said. "Even two hours. We're into having food and drink as a social thing and we don't feel that people should be windowed into 90 minutes.

"That's a major concern. What if there's a football match on at 4pm and you have 50 people arriving at one minute to 4pm?"

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Irena Gronowska looks out from the new partitions in O’Gormans pub, Portlaoise. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Irena Gronowska looks out from the new partitions in O’Gormans pub, Portlaoise. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Irena Gronowska looks out from the new partitions in O’Gormans pub, Portlaoise. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Publicans would also be loath to tell people they have to leave after 90 minutes, especially those who have been coming to their pubs for years for a night out with friends.

"Having to throw out regulars who have been drinking here for years? It's crazy," Mr Grimes said.

He added that putting up with the restrictions to enable him to open three weeks earlier than planned is not worth the bother.

He has already carried out major renovations to the restaurant and bar, which would see the small snug expanded to allow for social distancing while the lounge area is already set up as a restaurant.

Despite the cost of retrofitting his premises, he fears he could end up losing more money if he opens under the new guidelines, which might end up alienating his customers or result in very few people turning up.

"On July 20, all bets are off the table," he said of the Government's road map to reopening pubs.

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The Woolshed on Dublin’s Parnell Street plans to reopen on June 29

The Woolshed on Dublin’s Parnell Street plans to reopen on June 29

The Woolshed on Dublin’s Parnell Street plans to reopen on June 29

"Do we just go back to being a pub again 22 days later? It's just ridiculous."

Matt Hudson, who owns the Woolshed Baa and Grill on Parnell Street in Dublin, has similar concerns.

While he does intend to re-open on June 29 under the new guidelines, he said publicans have more questions than answers with less than two weeks to go before they can open their doors again.

He said the guidelines issued by Failte Ireland are causing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for publicans.

"My initial reaction is it's a slow drip-feed of information. They seem to be humming and hawing," he said.

"It's just ridiculous that they haven't made a decision with us days away from opening our doors.

"It seems a bit mad that we're getting this close to opening and there are no clear guidelines."

Even basic issues such as knowing whether to place social-distancing markers at either one metre or two metres apart is causing headaches, as he also retrofits his pub and restaurant.

Problematic

He agreed that the 90-minute window is too tight, and that to expect people to order their food and drinks and consume them within that time is "asking a lot".

"The way the law is worded, you must have a substantial meal and then allow just 30 minutes for a drink afterwards," Mr Hudson said.

Even if it was extended to two hours, "it would still be problematic".

"You're putting a time limit on how long someone can eat and drink," he said.