It's expected that indoor dining and drinking will resume sometime next week
THERE has been a cautious welcome among Limerick’s hospitality sector over the news that indoor dining could resume by the end of next week.
Legislation passing through the Oireachtas will allow for pubs and restaurants to open to patrons who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, with the government aiming for Friday, July 23 next, and no later than the following Monday to enact it.
Paul Flannery, the Limerick representative of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), said: “I’m cautiously optimistic we can get this over the line and get open indoors. It will be far from ideal, but we need to remember there are some pubs which have not opened since March 15 last year.”
In order to access the inside of a pub or restaurant people will likely be asked for the new digital Covid-19 certificate, which will prove they’ve been fully vaccinated.
But for one trader, doing this is something which leaves her feeling uneasy.
Helen O’Donnell, who runs the Hunt Museum cafe, said: “It’s going to cause confusion as people will automatically think they can go inside and have food. You don’t want to be asking people at the door to stop and show their certs. You know, people will have forgotten them, the dog might have eaten it, or it’ll have fallen down the side of the car.”
Mr Flannery admitted concern at the return of the so-called 105 minute rule – whereby people at tables spaced under two metres apart must leave after one-hour and 45 minutes.
There’s no time limit on people at tables spaced more than two metres apart.
“It makes no sense if everyone in the premises is vaccinated. What is the issue,” asked the publican, who runs his family’s business in Shannon Street.
While some pubs have put screens outside to allow those drinking outside to watch the summer of sport, the local VFI representative has not.
He made an exception on Sunday, placing a TV screen inside his window to allow customers to watch the European Championship final.
“Even Sunday night fo the match wasn’t ideal. Usually, you’d have a full house for the Euro final, so it was gutting to see what we had. We did get a screen put up behind the window, but it was like puppydogs looking in at a restaurant on a rainy night.”
Publicans have paid a heavy price with the lack of indoor dining, and the summer of sport, Mr Flannery added.
He said: “You’re looking at last Saturday week, you had Limerick v Cork, the Lions tour, Ireland playing Japan. Days like this are massive to all the hospitality in terms of people coming out and enjoying themselves.”
Hospitality businesses re-opening are also paying a high price, with having to get equipment back up and running, said Ms O’Donnell.
She said: “I don’t envy establishments which have not been open getting back, because it does take a long time to get systems going again. I don’t know a piece of equipment we haven’t had to repair or replace since we’ve come back. It’s been horrendous.”
The University Hospitals group has this week announced it has vaccinated 23,090 more people across the region, bringing the total number of jabs administered since January 4 up to 239,685.
Despite this, there are still significant daily Covid-19 case increases – with 600 new cases reported nationally on Monday night.
Mayor Daniel Butler has urged people to go “back to basics” in fighting the disease, saying: “It’s all about mask wearing, it’s about washing hands, it’s about avoiding crowds and in particular, we need to be mindful of those who are not fully vaccinated. Just because some people are vaccinated does not mean they cannot carry Covid-19 and pass it on.”
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