The owner of a well-known Dublin pub has said he cried some nights over Christmas due to the ongoing 8pm curfew.
NPHET is due to meet again on Thursday amid strong calls for the curfew to be lifted immediately.
The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar today told Newstalk that he will push for a “more ambitious and rapid reopening than we had in the past”- admitting that the impact of Omicron on the hospital system has been no worse than a bad flu season would have been.
He said Government would consider NPHETs advice before announcing a decision next week.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, owners of pubs, restaurants and cinemas called for the curfew to be lifted immediately.
Enda Keogh, owner of Peter’s Pub at Johnson Place in Dublin said the current situation is “ridiculous”.
“I am amazed that this has gone on as long as it has and I am appalled at the way people have been treated and the way business is,” he said.
“I know it is a serious situation, but to see pubs like ourselves putting respectable people out at 8pm at night over Christmas – I cried some nights.
“I am in business a long time and putting my customers out on the street at 8pm at night was appalling.
“I left the pub one particular night, I went to the supermarket on the way home and there were young people - very respectable people - who were obviously staying in the area and they were buying 14 or 15 bottles of spirits and wine to go back to a house.
“Now, they had been put out of a pub. They were doing no harm. They were probably in a safe environment and well-behaved and they were put out.”
He said he went for a walk after closing up on Saturday and saw “loads of people who had obviously come out of pubs buying cans and bottles of wine in supermarkets and sitting out on the street”.
“Like, it is just a ridiculous situation,” he said.
“We need to reopen immediately. We need to get to at least 10pm this week. Not phasing it in. Don’t promise me or my customers something in two or three weeks’ time or two months’ time – we should be at 10pm at the moment.”
Also on the show, Mark Anderson, Director of the Omniplex Cinema Group said there is “no basis” for maintaining the 8pm curfew as it is.
He noted that the 8pm rule means cinemas can’t start showing a movie any later than 5:30pm.
“We decided to stay open purely to retain that link with employees and the public so that we can reopen by the 30th,” he said.
“It is a gamble hoping that these restrictions will end by the 30th and hopefully beforehand, at least allowing us to start movies at 8pm.”
"No basis for restrictions"
He said the Government must come out with a plan to ensure the night-time economy is “not going to be the first port of call for any future restrictions”.
“We are trying to retain staff and attract new employees into this industry as a career path,” he said.
“We are two years down this line and still trying to reassure them that these restrictions are not going to be ongoing. That there isn’t going to be a cycle of opening and closing. It is virtually impossible now to attract any employees into this industry in a meaningful way.
“The number of hospitalisation and ICUs just did not materialise and there is no basis for maintaining this 8pm lockdown given the current state of affairs.”
Meanwhile, Marty, a publican in County Derry, said there are buses of people arriving into the North from the Republic every night to enjoy the later opening hours.
“I went for a pint after finishing work early on Saturday,” he said. “Between 8pm and 8:30pm, from the pub I was in, I saw nine buses - the 52-seat coaches - full to capacity arriving into Derry all one after the other, all Donegal reg.
“So, I think the Northern Ireland hospitality sector would be quite happy to see the restrictions continue in the Republic. We are doing very well.”
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