Publicans in urgent call for clarity

Dan Dooner


The Chairperson of the Roscommon Town & District branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Larry Brennan, has said that a lack of guidance from the HSE concerning the reopening of pubs and bars has led to increasing frustration among many local business owners.

Mr. Brennan, joint owner of Down The Hatch in Roscommon town, said a list of guidelines were overdue ahead of the planned reopening of pubs on July 20th.

“It is most frustrating. We have been closed for four months now and as of today we are twelve working days from when we are supposed to be open. We still have no indication of what guidelines will be in place by then.

“Unfortunately, it will not be viable for some bars and pubs to reopen. Any business that does reopen will have to order stock from Heineken and Diageo no later than Monday, July 13th, as it takes about eight working days to restock.

“We (Down The Hatch) are hoping to reopen but until we see the guidelines we can’t really know for sure,” he said.

Mr. Brennan said that while restrictions on music would not impact on the pub he runs with business partner Seamus Hayden, some venues would struggle.

“As we know, music will not be allowed in pubs and that’s going to be a serious issue for some venues where music is a big part of their business. There will also be no parties on the premises and these are issues pubs need clarification on.

“We have to know whether there will be a time limit, whether customers will have to book in, and whether it will be one or two metre social distancing. No business wants to be spending money (preparing to reopen) to find out that with the regulations it’s not viable for them to open. We are in limbo at the moment. The big hope for everyone is that we can open on July 20th so that we can at least get a few weeks of the summer,” he said.

It is believed that when pubs do reopen customers will be prohibited from sitting at the bar counter, something which will greatly affect premises’ such as Down The Hatch.

“With nobody at the bar and a distance of a metre in terms of social distancing, we’d be talking about a maximum capacity of twenty people in here. Customers would also have to sit at designated tables which would affect the atmosphere in Down The Hatch. Like many pubs of its kind, most of the business here is done around the counter,” Mr. Brennan added.

Down The Hatch is famed for its connections with Roscommon GAA and as a popular venue for supporters on match day as well as those watching televised sport. While this summer will see a sizeable reduction in its clientele, the owners are determined to reopen in the safest way possible.

“The best case scenario at the moment is that we break even but we’d just like to open and see how it goes. No pub will be making a killing while these regulations are in place but at the same time you don’t want to miss out completely.

“It’s way over time for the Government and the HSE to come out with guidelines for pubs. Tell us what to do! Everyone wants to abide by the regulations but just tell us what those regulations are.

“It goes without saying that the health of staff, customers and everyone else is paramount. If reopening is viable then happy days but if it’s not we will just have to sit down and have a look at things,” Larry concluded.