It is “inevitable” that people will travel to the North for night’s out if pubs and restaurants here are not allowed to reopen by late May, according to the Licensed Vintners Association.
The country’s two main vintners’ groups are calling for outdoor eating and drinking to return in six weeks’ time, with indoor service resuming shortly after.
It comes after the Northern Ireland Executive signed off on plans to reopen pubs and restaurants for outdoor service in two weeks’ time – and indoor service on May 24th.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Licensed Vintners Association CEO Donall O’Keeffe said the Republic should reopen outdoors on the same date.
“By that stage, indoor service will have resumed in the UK,” he said. “It is the same day as indoor service resumes in the North.
“There is going to be a significant degree of outdoor socialising, outdoor drinking, outdoor parties over the next few weeks.
“We can see overwhelming demand from customers to get back and we believe six weeks’ time, late May, is an appropriate stage to begin with outdoor service for all businesses – traditional pubs, food pubs and restaurants.
He said pubs and restaurants should then open for indoor service, “sometime in June.”
Mr O’Keefe said cross-border travel when the North reopens is “inevitable” unless customers in the Republic have some options.
“At the border counties and maybe further afield, you will see travel into the North for weekends, you will see travel across the border for nights out – it is simply inevitable,” he said.
“That is further impetus for our roadmap to be followed. If we begin outdoor on May 24th as we propose, that is the same day as the North begins indoor – at least there will be some options for people at this stage.”
Pubs and restaurants
He said there is no reason to treat pubs differently based on whether or not they sell food this time around.
“In terms of outdoor service, there is a consensus view from the health experts that outdoor is the safest way to go,” he said.
“We can see no difference why you can’t have a drink outside a pub as opposed to a meal outside a pub.
“We know that outdoor services resumed in the UK and we do believe in six weeks’ time that the vaccine programme, all going well, will be very significantly advanced.
“That changes the perspective for everyone. When we approach 80% of the population being vaccinated then surely our businesses can resume.”
He said the country’s pubs will have been closed for nearly 15 months by the end of May.
“That is an incredible closure,” he said. “These businesses have played no role whatsoever in the COVID pandemic.
“They have been closed every single day since March 15th last year and when the vaccine rollout is very well advanced – as it will be in late May and June – then surely that is the impetus to begin reopening the sector.”
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