Around six million pints of beer could be wasted if the return of indoor service in pubs and restaurants is delayed, according to industry body Drinks Ireland.
Indoor dining is due to reopen on July 5th – alongside the easing of restrictions around household visits, weddings, organised gatherings and indoor fitness training.
However, several ministers have been sounding a cautious note in recent days, citing concerns around the Delta variant.
NPHET is due to make a final recommendation later next week; however, media reports this morning suggested the reopening of indoor dining is increasingly likely to be delayed.
In a statement, Drinks Ireland, the representative body for beer manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland, said a “mammoth logistical operation” is already underway to restock 3,500 hospitality outlets ahead of reopening.
Around 70,000 kegs of beer have been brewed in preparation – the equivalent of around six million pints.
It said stouts and ales have a short shelf life and if there is any delay, many kegs will have to be “collected for recycling, repurposing or destruction.”
“Ireland’s hospitality sector and the country’s brewers have had a very challenging year,” said Jonathan McDade, Head of Beer at Drinks Ireland.
“The yo-yo approach last year, which saw pubs open and close, either nationally or regionally, five times with very little notice, was logistically challenging and had massive financial consequences for brewers,” he said.
“This is something we expressed to Government time and time again, and something we hoped would never happen again.”
He said the July 5th date had finally given the sector “some clarity, and indeed notice, to brew beer, deliver kegs and clean lines.”
“A significant amount of work has gone into brewing, beer line cleaning in pubs and deliveries to outlets over the past few weeks,” he said.
“All this work is jeopardised unless brewers get crystal clear clarity urgently from government on whether the 5th of July reopening is going ahead. If there is going to be a delay, we need a firm commitment on a new reopening date.
“The Government must consider the fact that pubs are safe environments, with stringent Covid measures in place. A decision about the perceived risk of reopening should not be considered in isolation of these factors.”
Drinks Ireland said a lead-in time of at least five weeks is needed to brew and deliver beer to pubs nationwide.
Meanwhile, it said it takes four weeks for technicians to travel to Ireland’s 7,000 pubs and clean the draught beer lines.
The body said the 3,500 venues with outdoor spaces have been covered but technicians are still working through the 3,500 that have yet to reopen.
The body warned that any last-minute delay to reopening will do “untold damage to jobs and livelihoods” and have a significant impact on Irish consumers during the peak holiday season.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Liam Fanning, Professor of Immunovirology at UCC, said it now looks like the return of indoor dining will be delayed.
He said there are genuine concerns around the infectiousness of the Delta strain of the virus, particularly indoors and noted that the “abundance of caution” NPHET has shown since the start of pandemic points to a delay.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Michelin Star Chef JP McMahon criticised the confusion and said it was “absolutely immoral” for the Government to leave pubs and restaurants waiting for a decision.
According to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) figures, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands all have similar vaccination rates to Ireland – however they all have indoor dining open in some form.
In the UK, where the Delta variant now accounts for over 90% of cases, indoor dining has been open since late May.
Last night, there were 38 COVID-19 patients in Irish hospitals – a 28% decrease on the same day last week.
There are 13 patients in intensive care for the fifth day in row – two fewer than last week.