Continued pub closures ‘to affect rural towns and villages in a big way’

The government has missed an opportunity to inject some common sense into the pub crisis, according to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.

Responding to the government’s announcement yesterday to postpone the opening of pubs that do not serve food, the TD said:

“Some parts of the country are seeing far higher incidences of Covid -19. In other parts there is very little Covid-19 in the community.”

The Meath TD noted that many pubs are of a size that the serving of drinks would be possible while observing all social distancing regulations. “Many others have beer gardens,” he added.

In city centre locations restaurants and pubs have been allowed to use parts of the street to provide seating for customers. Similar could have been achieved for rural pubs also. A one-size-fits-all rule does not make sense in many cases.

Deputy Toibín said that, during the week the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was specifically asked by the national broadcaster if publicans should refrain from purchasing alcohol out of fear that pubs would not reopen.

“The minister, at that time, did not offer any clear advice to publicans on the topic,” deputy Toibín claimed.

“Now just two days from the planned reopening of pubs the opening has been called off. This is obviously a decision based on public health advice, but I believe the minister should have been clearer during the week.

The last time the reopening of pubs was postponed, publicans were subjected to the added financial burden of having to spill out stocks which had gone out of date.

The Aontú leader highlighted that many pubs are nearing five months of closure, which he said is going to have a massive negative effect on family incomes.

“It’s also going to affect rural towns and villages in a big way,” he added.

“It is imperative now, if there is to be any future for pubs across the country, that the government step up and foot the bill for the stocks which will now have to be poured out by heart-broken, financially strained publicans.

If the government does not step up to this challenge then many pubs in rural Ireland will never reopen again.

“It is not fair that publicans were prepared for the reopening, purchasing stock and then for the decision to be reversed with less than one week’s notice,” concluded deputy Tóibín.