Welcome to your April newsletter, 

I hope the Easter weekend was extremely busy for those that were offering a takeaway or delivery service and if not that the CRSS was of some assistance to cover fixed costs. There is a fine line between success and being a very busy fool in the current environment and we are aware that the CRSS has its flaws. For those that were at home, I hope that the Easter weekend brings you a little bit of joy, good weather and time well spent with family. Hopefully, it is the last Easter we will have to spend restricted in our everyday lives. On March 23rd our CEO Adrian Cummins and I were before the Oireachtas Committee. The Licenced Vintners Association, Irish Hotels Federation and The Vintners Federation of Ireland were also present.

Our priorities were all very much aligned, and our asks were clear. We need a doubling of the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), an Extension of the EWSS until normal levels of trade resumes in our sector and an extended waiver of rates for another year at least. We discussed in length the issues surrounding skills shortages and the accelerated impact on human capital because of the pandemic. Issues surrounding insurance and business interruption claims were on the agenda among a myriad of other issues. The feeling was that our audience was in tune with our reasonable asks. Communication has been an issue from the beginning of Covid and we have sought concise and clear dialogue as to what our reopening will look like as we really do need time to plan human resources, logistics and infrastructure required to keep our staff and customers safe. Capital expenditure grants are a massive requirement to springboard businesses back to what will be a re-opened economy as it will most definitely be a case that our industry is left until last.

The briefing we gave at the Oireachtas Committee was delivered 7 days prior to the Governments living with Covid plan update. A national announcement that should have been inclusive of all parts of society including the 180,000 hospitality employees that were anticipating some kind of metrics or a snippet of hope from An Taoiseachs speech. The outcome was a more un-informative announcement, lacking clarity and lacking hope. There was no mention of Hospitality, cafes, restaurants or gastropubs. Instead, this was only mentioned at a later press conference that “Hospitality would be re-visited in June”. Business owners the length & breadth of the country were infuriated by the lack of empathy and the level of disrespect shown. The workforce and its employers are owed much more than that. Personally, I was disappointed after the levels of engagement we have had with the Government recently and the feedback that I have received was all very good, but looking back, this may have well been a head-nodding exercise. I believe that the Government’s announcement was a bed-time story lacking empathy. What we needed was a clear and concise path to recovery including metrics or what it will take to get us re-opened. This announcement has not gone far enough, and we deserve answers.

As per the Government announcement, Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts and holiday home reopening will be reviewed at the end of May. From my understanding, I will now be able to open my family hotel in June to residents yet a restaurant will still not be allowed open in a local neighbourhood. A bizarre move by the Government who clearly have not consulted properly or measured the scenario. The real move here is to get the country back to work safely so its citizens can recover financially & mentally and provide for their families. It is looking ever more likely that we will have to conduct our business outdoors for this coming summer.

Minister Catherine Martin announced a 17 million euro outdoor dining grant which was originally set up as a pilot scheme to 10 local authorities. After extensive lobbying on behalf of our members, the fund was extended to all local authorities. Restaurants will be able to claim a maximum of €4000 or up to 75% of the cost involved to adapt your business to dining outdoors. Failte Ireland will be facilitating this scheme and applications will be in receipt of works carried out. We will be engaging with Failte Ireland on the exact criteria over the next 7 days and will update in due course.

We have been promised the vaccination programme is ramping up and questions have to be asked as to why we have been so slow to date. If we are to benchmark against other EU countries we are way behind in the fight against this deadly virus. Other EU countries like Denmark, Austria and Hungary have broken rank and completed deals for additional vaccines. All we keep hearing is about other countries producing vaccines and administering them to populations in all kinds of different ways. It is astonishing how black and white we have been, and it is never a case of thinking outside the box. Emergencies call for unorthodox measures to be put in place. Get the vaccination out by all means necessary should be the strategy.

I will conclude this months newsletter with a note to say that The Virtual Hospitality & Tourism Expo “Reset & Recover” is coming up on April 13th. There are over 2,500 attendees already registered. There are fantastic speakers on the day and I would advise keeping the day free so that you can enjoy the Espo, I look forward to seeing you then. Happy Easter

Best Wishes,

Mark McGowan -President