President’s Report – September 2020

Welcome to your September newsletter, 

I feel some sense of normality taking communion and confirmation bookings and I personally am delighted to see children going back to school which is a credit to government planning and more importantly to the teachers that have made this a reality. Last month we were heading into August with the release of the deflating July Stimulus package. A package that fell well short of the tourism industries expectations as the tourism rate of Vat remained at 13.5% and an introduction of the employment wage subsidy scheme which is a 42% reduction of its predecessor. A nail in the coffin for many businesses that are struggling to take a breath in very choppy waters.  Initially Proprietary Directors were excluded from the EWSS and after extensive lobbying from our team in RAI headquarters the department of finance reinstated proprietary directors onto the scheme.

Communication is key here and if our association had of been consulted, we could have flagged the issue before it became a problem.  The July Stimulus quickly followed the announcement of a lockdown in Kildare, Laois & Offaly, I have great sympathy to all the families, business owners and their employees that had to persevere through another lock down. The news that arose around #golfgate was very disheartening and I can only imagine how angry everyone felt after digging your heals in and giving up your livelihoods again. It gave me great satisfaction to see the counties reopen again last week.

The guidance by NPHET in relation to the early closing of food serving establishments was also a major communication issue for this new government and again by simply consulting with our industry prior to the decision it may have saved a lot of hassle. After more lobbying from team RAI the time was later pushed to 11:30pm which gave us some scope to take a late sitting on a Saturday night. Much of the decision making has been erratic and it seems as if the decisions are being made blindfolded. A perfect example is the introduction of this statutory instrument to enable the Gardai powers to check records of what our customers ate for 28 days. The lack of trust in our industry is abhorrent and I think that it has been quickly forgotten that the majority of our industry made voluntary decisions in March to close safely to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. It was quite clear that this was a strategic decision to stop roque operators from serving alcohol without food. An absolute shamble of a decision and one that has backfired. Why not just come out and say the reasoning behind the decision instead of toing and froing around with pathetic tactics. Find ways of reopening the economy instead of ways to keep it closed. Restaurants need pubs and Pubs need restaurants, the industry is on its knees, time to open it safely and get the wheels of the economy turning. We are into injury time here and we need a goal quickly.

We had a very productive meeting with An Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Leo Varadkar in Mid-August and discussed a range of issues that are facing our industry now and also a discussion on where the industry will be unless much needed supports are put in place.  The EWSS, commercial rents, 11pm curfew, sector specific support and the urgency of these supports were discussed at length and I feel that An Tanaiste engaged with us and listened carefully to all of our concerns and has agreed that the industry is on its knees and will do all he can to support us on these issues. The staycation voucher was also discussed, and we are seeking a similar scheme as our Northern neighbours have that gives the customer a discount at source and the business is then reimbursed. The issues surrounding the stay and spend need to be resolved if it is to become a success and the worst time to bring it in was this month as it is off peak. One of the major issues that have not been currently addressed is the issue of commercial rents. Landlords have not chipped in at all since the beginning of this pandemic and we have been shouting for a call from government to put some pressure on the major stakeholders who are able to solve this issue which has become an emergency for many tenants in our city centres that have become ghost towns. Jobs will be lost unless this issue is resolved swiftly.

We now look forward to the October Budget and hope that it will bring some better news. The tourism rate of VAT will have to come back to 9% and an increase in the EWSS is a minimum requirement to ensure stability in our sector.  Our industry is a major economic driver and one of the largest indigenous employers in the country and it is vital that we get the supports that we need. I cannot stress the importance of getting the message out to your local TDs and tell them what is happening on the ground. We need to get the message out loud and clear.

As I write this newsletter there has been a sharp increase in cases in Dublin city and I hope that all of our members and their employees stay safe and support each other. I look forward to next month’s newsletter and wish you the very best over the coming weeks.

Best Wishes, Mark McGowan -President

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