Welcome to your July newsletter, 

We are now entering the 17th month of the pandemic & the 17th month of severe business restrictions. We have made sacrifices in our business and personal lives, the pressure for business owners, hospitality staff and their families has been devastating. Personally, I have found intermittent lockdown Levels very difficult, this one being the most trying and the hardest to stomach. Yesterday was very difficult, not only was there heavy rain but the wind alone made it impossible for regulars to enjoy a meal. Some just decided to box up their lunch and take it home. My American residents watched me battle with umbrellas and windbreakers to protect my 20 customers on the 130-seater terrace unfold from the bar, Irish coffee in hand! A perfect example of the unjustifiable scenario the industry finds itself in.

Whilst we battle with the wind and rain, large scale cancellations, recruitment difficulties, financial uncertainty and the chaotic day to day operations of a sector that does not know what direction it is headed. The rest of Europe has already begun its recovery. Our very own Hotel restaurants have begun their recovery with indoor dining, weddings have increased to 50 people. Our domestic tourists flock north, over the border where life is normal.  We were supposed to be open for indoor dining today July 5th but instead it Marks the day that our Association finds itself at the negotiating table with An Taoiseach, An Tánaiste, Health & Tourism Ministers & a no show from NPHET whom should be providing answers to the one question we have for them……. “WHEN?”.

The fact that we are currently the only state in the entire EU bloc that is not allowing indoor dining is breaking the hearts and souls of hospitality businesses across the country. Professor Sam McConkey suggested that “we can be cautious without being restrictive”. Professor Mallon suggested that an “additional two weeks will not make a difference in terms of reopening hospitality”. My view is that there should be a second opinion on the recent decision to stall hospitality from the WHO. At the beginning of this pandemic the major worry was protecting the vulnerable and by doing that we had to stay indoors. If this variant is so dangerous and transmissible then why is it ok for so many industries to plough along.

The Covid pass sounds like the only option on the table. If it is a case that this vaccination cert is the only way forward, that’s when things get really tricky because the sector will not have an appetite nor the know how on how to police it. Once we overcome the civil liberty issues, the constitutional and discrimination issues. The impracticalities of how to allow vaccinated and unvaccinated share toilets, staffing issues etc. I could go on all day.

Our legal challenge against the state in challenging the statutory instrument that differentiates restaurants from hotel restaurants is under way. The court awaits a response from the state as to the rational behind this decision. I look forward to that response and now more than ever as our sector continues to be discriminated against, it needs to stand together to ensure there is equality within the sector.

Myself, Our CEO Adrian Cummins and the entire team at the Restaurants Association of Ireland are continuously working to find a solution to get us open as soon as possible and hopefully by the end of this week we will have answers as to when and how we will reopen.

Best Wishes, Mark McGowan -President