New restrictions on hotel businesses take effect Tuesday, and a group of publicans said some in the industry fear these may not be the latest restrictions announced on their operations.
Due to the high level of transmission of Covid-19 in the community and concerns about the Omicron variant, the government has introduced measures which mean that bars and restaurants must now only offer table service, do not allow more than six customers to sit at a table, prevent customers from reserving more than one table, and make sure there is a distance of at least one meter between the tables. Nightclubs will also have to close, with restrictions to remain in place until January 9.
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said group members have seen virtually all corporate reservations and Christmas parties canceled.
âIt started again at a critical time for our sector. . . we have to have a conversation [with Government] on what is the [long-term] plan, âhe said.
The latest restrictions are seen as almost unrelated to a downturn in business by some in the industry, who say the real damage was done when there were public warnings against socialization, which took a toll on consumer confidence. .
âWhen you have a chief medical officer who specifically mentions hospitality, and he doesn’t mention gyms or retail, that really sets the tone for Christmas,â said Mark McGowan, owner of the Scholars Townhouse Hotel at Drogheda.
“You have a cohort of society that clings a lot to every word it [Dr Tony Holohan] said.”
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Mr McGowan said that as of this week, the hotel restaurant had been notified of some 2,500 cancellations. A good number of replacement bookings were made, but he says there was a net loss of about 1,500.
Industry representatives say trade restrictions in December are particularly sensitive, as the run-up to Christmas is a time when companies typically register around three times the volume of business they would in a normal month.
While hotel companies emphasize their support for public health advice and the safety of staff and guests, many believe they are being singled out at exactly the wrong time. Companies like Scholars will once again turn to take-out, hire fewer staff, and hope the government supports being developed will help them get by.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), which represents pubs in Dublin, said a shift in consumer behavior in recent weeks had seen a once promising Christmas period “come crashing down”.
“The hospitality industry is still worried about the arrival of additional restrictions,” said a spokesperson for LVA.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents pubs outside the capital, also believes that the shift in public health messaging in recent weeks has been the biggest blow to the seasonal outlook.
âIt’s almost like we’re in a pattern of waiting to see how virulent the Omicron variant is,â a spokesperson said of the lingering uncertainty that left the ads half-empty. âIn our opinion, it all depends on the media available for commerce now. “
While many in the industry believe the real blow came before renewed restrictions last week, including number of tables and reservations, nightclub closures, and limits on interactions with households, the hospitality industry events is grappling with the details, namely a 50% cap.
The Irish Events Industry Association (EIAI), which represents almost 36,000 workers, said nothing would be spared by a restriction reducing the capacity of indoor events to 50%.
Elaine O’Connor of the EIAI said everything from community charity events, Christmas markets and light shows, ice skating and Santa Claus caves, would be affected.
âMy struggle is to think of an event that is not affected,â she said.