'Flawed, unworkable, discriminatory and currently illegal'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Today, the government of Ireland announced that it would not allow hospitality operators to welcome guests indoors from July 5th as planned, and that it would instead be consulting with the industry to introduce a vaccinated-guests-only policy by July 19th. 

Ireland's Taoiseach Micheál Martin explained in his address that due to the effects of the Delta variant of coronavirus on the country's infection rate, indoor hospitality settings will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19, as per the recommendations made by the government's National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Speaking to The Staff Canteen, Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur JP McMahon behind Aniar, Cava Bodega, and Eat Gastropub in Galway said: "It's an absolute mess. This is the first we've heard of not letting people in based on whether they've been vaccinated or not and there's nothing in place to operate it. I don't know what their aim is."

"Most of our staff aren't vaccinated because they're not in the over forty category. It just doesn't add up."

'We need some certainty'

"I think they're just trying things out to see what sticks at the moment," he continued, as "you can go to the cinema for two hours, but you can't go into a restaurant for two hours."

"You can be in a gym for as long as you want now. None of their policies seem to add up." 

It is of some comfort that two of JP's businesses are able to operate on a takeaway basis with a very limited number of outdoor seating, but even with that, plans to reopen indoors next week have been scuppered, meaning the teams he put together will once again have to play the waiting game. 

As for the support available, other than the availability of some grants, businesses have been left to fend for themselves. 

"We're gradually losing money, we can't stay closed forever," he said. "We're still paying rent and paying our staff - we need some certainty." 

"All they've said at the moment is on July 19th we'll let you know what we're going to do." 

Meanwhile, the Restaurants Association of Ireland issued a statement in which it said the sector was "astounded and angered," by the plan to only allow vaccinated customers indoors, calling it "flawed, unworkable, discriminatory and currently illegal," especially given that hotels and B&Bs have been open and able to feed people indoors for almost a month. 

"The summer is now lost for thousands of businesses across the state," it said. 

CEO Adrian Cummins said: “restaurant, pub and café owners will now be placed in the unenviable, complex and difficult position of allowing vaccinated customers enter indoors and restricting non vaccinated customers to outdoor dining. Such a practice of refusing access to goods and services in currently illegal under equality acts.

"The hospitality sector contains a diverse range of workers by age with front of house mostly the unvaccinated age groups, who will now be asked to refuse access to their peers. This makes no sense and will restrict indoor dining to those in the 40 – 60 age groups who are fully vaccinated whilst the hotel across the street has families and guests dining indoor since 2nd June.  

"We are calling on the Government to reopen indoor hospitality with immediate effect in line with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and across Europe.” 

What's more, it deplored, the reopening of international travel "means that you can dine in restaurant in Portugal or have a pint in Spain unprohibited from the 19 July," but not so in Ireland.

"Ireland has been observing the Delta variant activity in other EU countries but once again there is a plan to restrict rather than track and trace to prevent its spread as the WHO recommends."

Photo credit: Paul Sherwood

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 29th June 2021

'Flawed, unworkable, discriminatory and currently illegal'