Publicans have accused the Government of using “deceptive” coronavirus data to run a “politically-motivated hatchet job” on the sector.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have strongly rejected the findings of a study undertaken by consultants EY which linked virus surges with the reopening of wet pubs in Cork, Limerick and Galway.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin referenced the study when he said there was ‘strong evidence’ supporting the decision to order non-food pubs to remain closed this Christmas.
The publican groups have highlighted what they claim are “14 different flaws, deceptive uses of data and incomplete considerations” and called for wet pubs to be allowed to reopen at the same time as the rest of the hospitality sector on Friday.
VFI Chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “It is absolutely astounding that Government is using a flimsy, misleading document to keep the wet pubs closed.”
“Their so-called evidence is littered with deceptive uses of information and massive gaps in their analysis. It is a smear on the sector, a politically motivated hatchet job on wet pubs.
“How any serious decision maker could use this deeply inadequate report as a rationale for decimating half the industry tells us a lot about the levels of consideration shown by this Government towards the pubs of Ireland.”
The EY report found that the 14-day coronavirus rate rose by between 10% and 12% in the three cities when wet pubs were allowed to open in September – more than three-times the national average.
It found no similar surge in Dublin, where they remained closed.
It notes however that the increase coincided with the reopening of universities and a number of specific sporting events.
The publican groups said the report uses “spurious correlation to imply causation” regarding the increase in case numbers.
They said it does not put forward any evidence suggesting wet pubs pose a greater risk than those serving food and does not take account of the fact that Dublin was places on “Level Three-plus” restrictions more than two weeks before the majority of the rest of the country.
“That such flawed and weak material is being used to keep the wet pubs closed is disgraceful,” said LVA Cheif Executive Donall O’Keeffe.
“When you consider the impact this is having on tens of thousands of people working in pubs across Ireland, the people who supply those pubs and all the various families involved, it is a shameful approach that is being adopted by Government.
“Given the obvious defects in their report, the Government must now reverse their decision and allow the wet pubs to reopen at the same time as the rest of the hospitality sector. Any other decision will rightly be regarded as malice towards the wet pubs.”
"Standing idly by"
In the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin came under fire from rural TDs over the decision to keep wet pubs closed.
Cork South-West TD Michael Collins said it would “never be forgotten in every town and village in rural Ireland” that the Government was “standing idly by” while the rural pub industry was facing destruction.
Mr Martin defended the decision, noting that he would love to go for a pint in a rural pub but insisting that keeping them closed is the right thing to do.
The 14 rebuttals of the EY report on the impact of easing restrictions forward by the LVA and VFI are available here.