'two-tier Christmas' Closing bars will drive festive drinkers to house parties, publicans say
Publicans have told the Government that keeping bars shut will not stop people from partying next month and will instead tempt them to organise house gatherings.
It comes as Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday there will be "no going on the lash for Christmas" when discussing the possible easing of restrictions in the run-up to Christmas.
He remained coy about pubs opening, and admitted "it's a challenging sector".
There have been 22 confirmed outbreaks in pubs since the start of the pandemic compared with 5,285 in private households, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Michael 'Sully' O'Sullivan, the co-owner of Clancy's bar in Cork city, is of the view that "the house party situation is going to "run amok" if the Government does not allow pubs to reopen.
"There's no doubt we should be opening, whether that's at Level 2-plus or Level -3, whatever you want to call it," he said.
"People will be desperate to get back socialising at Christmas and the best way to do that is by allowing them into controlled spaces.
"My father is 70 and he's really missing that social outlet. All he wants is a bit of GAA and a few pints.
"I get the need for caution and physical distancing as my sister was very sick with Covid, but all that will happen is more house parties and fellas in shebeens.
"If we don't open up pubs to help deal with the volume, the situation is going to run amok.
"There have been no real statistics to back up our industry being at fault for spreading the virus. Sure, we've been closed for the majority of it."
Mr O'Sullivan and his partner Paul Montgomery made significant investment in the four-storey building, including a €1m refurbishment last year.
The pair also pumped in funds to make the premises Covid-compliant.
During the summer, they were granted planning permission to build a new rooftop area that will include a cafe and cocktail bar.
Mr O'Sullivan said the pandemic has not been all doom and gloom for the pub industry.
"Before, you'd go out and maybe meet 20 people on a night out, but now people are going out in their clusters of four and being super- engaged with each other, and there is something so pure about that," he said.
He is maintaining a positive outlook and accepted that the Government and National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) have a difficult job to do.
"I pulled my team in on Monday and discussed the plan for reopening in the hope that we get the green light," he said.
"I get the narrative about people in the industry not having enough money for Christmas, but to be honest, my problem is getting people back to work.
"You can't simply turn on and turn off industries.
"There's a lot of work involved in re-engaging all the suppliers and getting prepared, but I don't care if I get the go-ahead this week or at the end of the month, as long as we can open."
Mr Martin said the Government will not be finalising a lockdown exit plan until closer to December 1.
Vintners have warned that the country will face a "two-tier Christmas" if the industry remains closed next month.