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good news Major boost for hospitality sector as two-metre rule set to be halved for pubs and restaurants

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Pubs and restaurants are set to reopen for outdoor services from June 7. Photo: PA

Pubs and restaurants are set to reopen for outdoor services from June 7. Photo: PA

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Social distancing in pubs and restaurants is to be halved to just one metre under soon-to-be announced regulations for the hospitality industry.

The new rules will be a major boost for the sector, with businesses able to welcome more customers into their premises when Covid-19 restrictions are eased next month.

Under the regulations, which will apply to indoor and outdoor dining, there also will be no restrictions on how long people can stay in a restaurant or pub.

The controversial requirement for people to spend €9 on a meal is also being ditched to allow pubs that do not serve food reopen at the beginning of next month.

When indoor dining resumes in July, businesses will have to have dedicated entrances and exits, and only table service will be permitted. A maximum of six customers per table will be permitted under regulations to be issued by Fáilte Ireland.

A new State support that will allow traditional pubs prepare for outdoor dining is also expected to be announced.

Last year, Government guidelines for the hospitality industry required restaurants and pubs to keep two metres between tables if they did not want to impose time limits on how long customers could stay on their premises.

Restaurants and pubs that could only keep customers one metre apart were required to keep bookings to a maximum of 105 minutes.

When restrictions on the hospitality industry are eased early next month there will only be a requirement to have tables one metre apart and there will be no time limits.

On June 2, hotels are permitted to reopen and can serve customers in their restaurants and bars.

Five days later, on June 7, all restaurants and bars will be permitted to reopen for outdoor dining for the first time since December.

A date for the return of indoor dining and drinking has yet to be set but the Government has said it expects to allow indoor hospitality in July. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he would “put money on” indoor dining returning in July.

Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing between Tourism Minister Catherine Martin and Sports Minister Jack Chambers about running trials for concerts and sports events from June.

Ms Martin is planning a series of concerts and comedy gigs in venues of various sizes from next month to examine the impact of the return of indoor gatherings on the transmission of the virus.

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The live events will be across a wide range of music genres to cater to different age groups.

Mr Chambers is involved in talks with the governing bodies of sporting organisations about allowing supporters return on a phased basis.

The experience in Britain, where fans have returned to stadiums for live events, is being closely watched as officials draft plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions here.

Mr Chambers previously said he believed antigen tests would play a part in live sports returning and that there would be staggered entrance times to stadiums when events returned.

Earlier this month, the minister said a government review of how fans might return to live sporting events suggested 5pc of stadiums could be filled at first.

This would mean around 4,100 fans in Croke Park to begin with. If the two-metre social distancing rule was used, Mr Chambers said this would allow 15,000 fans in the country’s biggest stadium, while one metre would allow 30,000.

Separately, Horse Racing Ireland has made a submission to Government suggesting that 500 race fans could attend meetings on a pilot basis in the coming months.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he would make an announcement on holidays abroad, outdoor events and the next phase of reopening next Friday.

The announcement is expected to include plans to have a ‘travel bubble’ between Ireland and the UK for those fully vaccinated from July.

It may then be later in the summer before travel is permitted to other parts of Europe with a virus level similar to that in Ireland as part of the EU’s Digital Green Cert.

“I’ll be making a comprehensive statement next week in relation to continuing reopening of society and sectors of the economy and in relation to travel and also areas around the entertainment sector, live events and what is possible in June and July,” the Taoiseach said yesterday.

He added that there were “issues to be ironed out” in regards to the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate but that the vaccine roll-out “will make a difference” to international travel.

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