Last month I had welcomed the easing of certain restrictions that would ensure we had a healthy trading period through December. Days after releasing last month’s newsletter the new variant Omicron was starting to sweep across Africa and into Europe. We had our first case of this variant last week and we still do not know enough about its ability to evade vaccines but what we do know is that it is 3 times more transmissible than previous variants. The first reaction from our CMO was to reduce contacts. He said “The responsible thing” for public health is not to plan any “major socialisation events” like Christmas parties. This was directed towards our industry which was very disappointing. This followed a “work from home where possible” message from the Government. Because of these comments customer confidence begins to fade.
Further messaging from the Government re-iterates reducing social contacts. Professor Philip Nolan, chair of NPHET, asks for society to reduce social contacts by 30%. A very precise figure based on science I presume. The work from home message almost immediately sets the tone for the staff Christmas party. Cancellations are at their highest rate in the history of our industry. It is unprecedented and calls for a major reaction from the government to help businesses to survive.
The RAI along with the LVA, VFI & IHF had meetings with both Fianna Fail & Fine Gael Parliamentary Parties last week and gave a detailed analysis on the severity of the messaging and the impact that this has had on business owners and their staff countrywide. Our requests were aligned and united. The need for support has never been greater. In order for us to maintain our current rosters and keep our heads above water the minimum requirement is for the EWSS to remain at November levels until at least the end of Q1 of 2022 and a restructure of the CRSS to be more accessible to businesses by tweaking the criteria. The extended to the Commercial Rates waiver was also discussed in great detail and the response from both parties was honest and constructive. Both parties are well aware of the importance of an industry that contributes 15 Billion to National GDP and employs 270k people. The Minister for finance and his Department had tweaked the CRSS criteria for eligible businesses to have access to 12% of weekly turnover to a maximum payment of €5k per week if a business has a reduction of 50% in turnover in a given week. This excludes about 75% of hospitality businesses. We have had follow up meetings chaired by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste today 6th of December and have articulated our dismay that the level of support is not enough. The EWSS has tapered off and although it will remain in place for Q1 of 2022 it will be at the newly reduced level. We are expecting to hear from the Department of An Taoiseach by tomorrow with hopefully a bespoke tailored level of support that will help us get through the next few months.
The new restrictions announced last week are the same as they were in October and will allow us to trade to some degree. Closing time is midnight, no multiple table bookings, max 6 adults or 15 including children and 1 metre distancing between tables. I am bitterly disappointed for the events and late-night sector who will be worst affected by this recent announcement and will not have any trade this December. My hope is that the booster programme will be rolled out as well as our vaccination programme and that we can combat this Variant quickly.
Last month I had stated that this would be my final newsletter before I passed the chains of office on to the incumbent president. Traditionally the handover is carried out at the Presidential Dinner and because of the current level of restrictions and timing wise I will be here for a little longer and so I look forward to updating you next month. I would like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and wish you all the best for 2022.
Mark McGowan -President