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a stout time There's an 'air of hope' for wet pubs, says manager of one of Dublin's most iconic boozers

Manager's mind is now focused on June 7 when pubs will finally be able to open outdoors service

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Daniel Smith of the famous Grogan's Castle Lounge on William Street

Daniel Smith of the famous Grogan's Castle Lounge on William Street

Daniel Smith of the famous Grogan's Castle Lounge on William Street

The manager of one of Dublin’s most iconic pubs has described how there is now an air of hope for the so-called wet pubs, which have remained barred and bolted for 411 days, according to a clock on the website of the Licensed Vintners Association. 

Daniel Smith, of the famous Grogan's Castle Lounge on William Street in the south inner city, last served a pint in March 2020.

“I can't wait for the day when that clock becomes redundant,” he said. “It's powerful in a way because it shows just what's been going on. But it’s also something we wish we never had to have and now we’re hoping that we will never have to have it again.”

Daniel's mind is now focused on June 7 when pubs will finally be able to open outdoors service. He is also looking past that to “hopefully” July when they will be allowed to serve indoors too.

But Grogan’s has always been popular among punters for its great outdoors spot with a busy pedestrian street running alongside which made it great for people watching.

“It is exciting,” he said. “I’ve been here all morning having a good look around and trying to figure out how to maximize our space so we can fit in as many people as we safely can.

“They’ve said they’re won’t be an arbitrary figure like 15 people allowed gather outdoors, such as last year. Instead, it will be based on the size of your premises and I think that puts us in a nice position in that we’re on an open road. We don't have an enclosed area like a beer garden that has a certain square footage.

“Obviously we’ll abide by the social distancing guidelines and regulations but it's really just about getting back to work, getting our staff back and our customers back, if not in the door then out the door.”

Daniel admitted that there have been “a lot of tough days and tough weeks” in the past year, “particularly around last summer when we were geared up to open three or four times and then we didn't get the go ahead.

“I’d have come in a couple of times a week and throw my eye over the place and turn on the heating over the last 14 months and it’s been depressing. A pub without its customers and without its staff is just four walls.

“We spent a lot of money on getting the environment right and got our staff in for meetings and then we had to tell them with three days’ notice that their job wasn’t there anymore. And that's been really difficult. There have been days when it did feel like this was never going to end. Hopefully now the light is showing at the end of the tunnel.

“We had 16 staff when we closed and we I think we have nine remaining. Almost all of our part time staff have left the industry, unfortunately. And I think that's a big problem that will be facing the industry as a whole over the next couple of years going forward, to get and retain new staff because the job security is not what it was before.

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“I think what's crucially important now will be continued State support for businesses. We can’t be under any illusions that there's gonna be eureka moment where once places are able to get back open things will be 100% again. We’re going to be operating under restriction for the foreseeable future.

“Hopefully, towards the end of the year the restrictions will be lifted as the vaccination programme goes to plan. But some places are still going to struggle when the overheads come back in. We really need to hit the ground running.”

As for the lockdown policy imposed in the industry Daniel said: “We can't say the pubs should never have been shut, absolutely, there were times during the past 14 months when pubs should have been shut alongside other business as well.

“But our biggest gripe was the nine euro meal thing that we never believed made any sense. I think the admission from people within government that it didn't make sense is reflected in their policy with all pubs now being treated the same.

“So that's something that has really been a big issue but we’re at the stage now where that's been rescinded and we're looking forward to finally getting back. We’re trying not to dwell on the negatives too much anymore, you know, and just look forward to the path ahead and hopefully brighter days are coming.”

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