‘Confusing rules will lose us a small fortune' – pub and club owners say relaxed rules still unworkable

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The welcome news for nightclubs and late bars that restrictions on opening hours will be lifted on Friday is tinged with uncertainty, as many still have challenges to overcome before they open this weekend.

The current 11.30pm curfew will be scrapped under new plans but only table service will be permitted, and people will not be allowed to sit at bars in pubs.

“Most of my customers are students aged between 18 and 24 and as soon as they’ve a few drinks in them they just want to get up dancing and move around,” said Greg Meaney of Molly’s Late Bar in Limerick.

The policing of customers to make sure those not seated were either dancing or going to the bathroom would have owners “on edge”, he said.

“Having the table service in place is a big problem for me as there is so much staff and security involved. It’s a big problem with respect to keeping people at their tables and stopping them from moving around, and that’s while we were only open until 11pm. It’s going to be close to impossible to do that when we’re open until 2.30am” he said.

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Mr Meaney also said getting the staff to operate the extended hours would prove a huge challenge.

“I’m worried that if I open Friday and Saturday until 2.30am, then I may have to close altogether on bank holiday Sunday due to a lack of staff. You know this weekend is going to be really busy too, as it’s the first weekend in so long that late bars and nightclubs are open. I don’t want to open the venue and be understaffed so I think I’ll have to close on Sunday night,” he said.

Mr Meaney said the guidelines issued yesterday were confusing.

“It’s very mixed up. There are a lot of questions still to be answered as to how we are supposed to set our venues up for Friday night. My staff have been asking me what the story is for Friday night and two days before it I’m still quite unsure,” Mr Meaney said.

The chairman of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) for Dublin, Noel Anderson, who owns The Bridge 1859 and Lemon & Duke pubs in Dublin, criticised the new increased limit of 10 adults per table.

“It’s going to absolutely decimate the Christmas trade for hospitality,” he said.

“I had a number of big bookings this weekend that we have to cancel now and we’ve to ruin people’s celebrations and we’re going to have big holes in our venue that I’m going to have to try and fill with smaller bookings.

“Hospitality is going to lose a small fortune over the next couple of months because of this, we’ve no choice but to cancel,” he said.

“I own The Bridge 1859 right beside the Aviva stadium. It’s going to be full capacity and with the rugby November series coming, I’m going to lose a fortune on those restrictions.”

Mr Anderson also said people should be allowed to sit at the bar in a pub or nightclub.

“If the staff are going to be masked and the customers are going to be vaccinated, then what’s the big risk here?” he asked.

“The Taoiseach said whatever normally happens in a nightclub can still happen in a nightclub, but that’s not what can happen in a pub so how is that right?”

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