the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have today launched a new #NotDisposable campaign, aimed at reminding the public of the many people behind pubs, hospitality, arts and entertainment who have largely been out of work since last March.
It comes as the Limerick branch of the VFI mark one year since pubs closed for the first lockdown with a poignant video. At 6pm on Sunday, March 15 2020, bars closed down as the country made an attempt to stem the flow of Covid-19.
They would not re-open until late June in the case of gastro-pubs, and September for bars which do not serve food.
However, a further closure order was then put in place in October which outlawed the use of the indoors of licensed premises, with a complete closedown until December later that month. In the run-up to Christmas, food pubs were allowed to open, but then closed once again on December 24 as Covid-19 cases spiked. They've not opened since, with no set date for pints to be poured again.
A number of well-known Limerick pubs have sent in photographs to help the VFI's Limerick branch put together a compilation video.
Set to Dreams by the Cranberries, the video states: "We want to reassure you we are still here and looking forward to opening our doors and welcoming you all back again. Until that day comes , stay safe and know that you are all missed from our pubs, but better times are coming again very soon!"
Among the pubs featured are JJ Bowles, the White House, the Spotted Dog in Janesboro, Squire McGuires, the Cat's Cradle in Ballyneety, the Westward Ho! in Mungret and Finnegan's, near the Mackey roundabout.
Also featured is the Glen Tavern, run by Ger Callanan, the public relations officer of the local Vintners Group.
He said: "The video brings a tear to your eye. You start looking at all those famous Limerick pubs that have been closed and seeing people in them, and you realise it's not just a building, it's people. And all these people have hundreds of customers and friends they are all used to. It's very poignant."
He's kept in touch with regular customers through Whatsapp groups, and texting.
"These are your friends, these are people you've known for nearly 22 years. Some families go back much further than that," he explained.
Should all go to plan with the vaccine roll-out, Ger is hoping to re-open his Lower Glentworth Street pub in June.
"Opening, and closing and opening again. It's demoralising and confusing for customers. Also, the loss of habit to the customers. We will have to build this up going forward," he noted.
Chairman of the Limerick Vintners branch Paul Flannery - whose Shannon Street bar also featured - said: "The video is just to send out a message to the people of Limerick that we are still here. We haven't gone away. We know we have to play our part in tackling the pandemic. But we will be open and we are looking forward to everyone coming back through our doors.
"Hopefully it will get people thinking about the pubs. At the end of the day, we are not looking for sympathy. We want to do what we want to do to tackle the pandemic. But to let people know we are looking forward to opening at some point this year," he added.
The social media campaign will see hundreds of pubs and individuals posting pre pandemic photos of the people who work in these sectors.
The campaign arises from recent comments made by Rory O’Neill aka Panti, who’s heartfelt remarks chimed with many people working in pubs, hospitality, arts and entertainment and echoed their experience over the last year.
Speaking on Virgin Media’s Six O’Clock Show on Tuesday February 16, Mr. O’Neill said: “I’m struggling at this stage…It’s been a year now and I’m just banging my head off the wall, cos there is no real end in sight for us… I read this thing I can’t get out of my head, 70% of the population have saved money during the pandemic and I was like I live in a parallel universe because everybody I know who works in the entertainment industry or the bar or hospitality, we’ve all lost everything. So I spend all my days arguing with the bank over mortgage payments or whatever because everything just ended. It turns out that our industry is utterly disposable. I think the experience of the pandemic has been very different for different sections of the population.”
Pubs and others participating in the campaign across the country have been encouraged to post their photos to social media throughout Monday March 15, a date which marks exactly one year since the pubs closed. Pubs were the first sector of the economy to shut their doors at the outset of the pandemic, supporting the Government’s instructions for the good of public health.