President’s Report – October 2020

Welcome to your October newsletter, 

I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathy to our industry colleagues in Donegal & Dublin that have entered a second lockdown. Our CEO has sought moratorium extensions and specific lockdown county support to those businesses that have essentially been forced to close. As each of these businesses began bracing themselves for a long winter, they were hit with the news that their doors would again be closed. The short notice given to restaurants was again sloppy from Government and I was very taken back by the lack of courtesy given to tax paying businesses. The outdoor capacity and miserable weather we are facing makes that restriction laughable. It would make more sense during level 3 if we increase social distancing and allow diners into premises and then reduce distance back to 1 meter as we drop the levels etc. Especially given the fact that restaurants are such controlled environments, there is no creativity or innovation from our Ministers.

These measures come only 4 weeks after asking us to record what was consumed by our customers during their visit. All it takes is a bit of consultation and asking what we propose. I am starting to feel like a broken record, but I will say it again; I am calling on our leaders to lead and find avenues to keep businesses open rather than ways of keeping them closed.

We are still awaiting the so-called international evidence that NPHET based their decision to close our sector on. This decision, which led to hospitality essentially being shut in two counties and resulted in the layoff of 70,000 employees, some of which may never get their jobs back. The latest decision to restrict more than 6 people from 2 households will create big problems for us. I had several cancellations since the announcement. It is getting increasingly difficult to work in this environment and I often find myself staring into the abyss and drifting away wondering what we will be faced with next. There is enormous anger and uncertainty out there within our industry. We are under appreciated and it sickens me to the core to see businesses being told to close when it is so obvious that hospitality is not the issue. There are so many other industries that contribute to this disease, we are being singled out and unfairly treated, the restrictions imposed on us are by far the most draconian in Europe.

Our Association has called for a 500 million Euro package of emergency supports for our sector in the upcoming Budget on Tuesday October 13th. The Restaurants Association along with our industry colleagues in the VFI, LVA & IHF had a meeting with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, we each delivered our asks of government in the upcoming budget and they are very much aligned. The restaurant sector has contracted by over 30% and priority number one was a revision of the pandemic unemployment payment and employment wage subsidy scheme. These wage supports have been the difference between survival and the entire sector falling from a cliff edge. We have one more week to make a final push and contact our local representatives and ensure they are aware of our plight. Budget 21 takes place on Tuesday 13th of October and all eyes will be on EWSS & a reduction of the tourism rate of VAT to 9%. Other key issues facing our industry such as the burden sharing of commercial rents were also discussed in detail. I came away from the meeting grateful that we are so well represented by our CEO Adrian Cummins and team at RAI headquarters and I can assure you that they have gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the interest of every restaurant and their staff has been best served.

The last few days there has been substantial increases in cases especially around border counties. Northern Ireland recorded over 900 cases on Friday and it is quite clear that there is a correlation between this and the increase in cases in border counties. This disease knows no borders and it is more important now than ever that there is a more unified approach between the North and South on how we combat this disease. Lockdowns need to be imposed regionally rather than on a county basis. The data is there, and it should be used more effectively to ensure the regions that have a lower infection rate increase economic activity. It is my hope that we will not have any more lockdowns, we continue our lives whilst protecting ourselves, our businesses, and our mental health.
I look forward to chatting to you all very soon.

Best Wishes,

Mark McGowan -President

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