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'Wet pubs' warn they risk going to the wall if told to remain shut

'Wet pubs' warn they risk going to the wall if told to remain shut with opening already put back three tiimes

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FF senator and publican Ollie Crowe

FF senator and publican Ollie Crowe

Pink poster campaign

Pink poster campaign

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A FIANNA Fail Oireachtas member who is also a publican will meet Taoiseach Micheal Martin face-to-face on Tuesday and insist to him: "Open ALL bars across the country by the end of the month."

Galway Senator and publican Ollie Crowe was nominated by the Vintner's Federation of Ireland (VFI) to the Seanad and he was elected for Fianna Fail.

Ollie sympathises with 'wet' publicans across Ireland, who will be six months' shut next week. He will also be asking for bigger State grants and also mortgage assistance for the sector.

Today the Sunday World reveals a new poster which will be displayed in windows of closed premises across the country from early this week.

The vivid pink posters read: "Abandoned by Government. Over 3,500 pubs remain closed since 15 March by order of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and The Green Party #Openthepubs."

"Politics is a difficult business and all I can do is my utmost," reflects Ollie when we showed him the poster for the first time.

"At the end of the day the pandemic is across the world and we are trying to deal with it and we have another meeting with the Taoiseach's office on Tuesday and there is willingness to open them and it needs to be open with the correct protocol and the correct guidelines."

Ollie is part of a fourth generation to run Crowe's pub in Bohermore in Galway city and it is lucky that it has always served food so he was able to reopen at the end of June.

"We have a good steady business with regulars," he explains. "The pandemic cost us trade from the Galway Arts Festival and the Galway Races, but it has had a huge effect across the world.

"Naturally I think the priority for every business owner is first of all the family and the staff and naturally their customers."

Ollie is part of the VFI, which represents mainly pubs in country areas, but works hand in hand with the Licenced Vintners Federation , which is primarily a Dublin-based organisation.

"I've tirelessly worked with vintners and people have to realise that with 3,500 pubs there's 3,500 families and a lot of the rural pubs are run by families," he maintains.

"I have already had a meeting with the Taoiseach for an hour and a half about five weeks ago, I've had a meeting with Minister Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure.

"I have another meeting with the Taoiseach in the Taoiseach's office on Tuesday afternoon and my understanding is that the priority I suppose for every person across the country is to get the schools open, but I think it was much easier to shut down the country than it is to open it back up."

He concedes it is "frustrating" for 'wet pubs' - ones which don't serve food - that they've been knocked back three times so far.

Guidelines

"I will be outlining to the Taoiseach the importance naturally of what we want and my understanding is the guidelines are being worked on over the weekend and early next week," he told the Sunday World.

"What we require is to give us the protocol, to give us the guidelines for next weekend and be in a position to open definitely by the end of September. I think myself the pubs will be open in either the second last week or the last week of September.

"There will also have to be measures brought in the Budget to support the hospitality sector in general."

He and his colleagues in the hospitality sector are suffering from a decrease in trade.

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Pink poster campaign

Pink poster campaign

Pink poster campaign

"Friends of mine in Galway are in the hotel business and naturally in the bar and restaurant business and it is frightening the fall off on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," he notes.

"It was all OK until last weekend but now the schools are back open and in the inner cities like where we are based it's vital that they get the support because if we don't there's going to be huge closures and a massive impact."

He points out that small pubs are the hub of communities.

"There are an awful lot of people who come into the bar to have just a cup of tea or coffee and in fact the biggest increase in beer sales across the county is non-alcoholic Heineken," he claims.

He adds that while he respects NPHET and Dr Ronan Glynn, who himself is from Galway, he believes there needs to be more leeway regarding pubs.

"There have been certain places across the world where they have been open and closed again, we don't want that to happen here," he muses. "Bars and restaurants opened on June 29, and 99.9 per cent have been absolutely operating under the requirements under the guidelines.

"What happened in that restaurant in Dublin (Berlin D2) and also in Killarney (a street party) last weekend is no reflection of bars in general

"I actually think it's to the detriment of society the volume of house parties that are taking place across the country, because it's better for all our people to be in a controlled environment and in a licensed premises."

He adds: ""At the end of September every publican's licence has to be renewed and if there's one complaint from the gardai well then you don't get it renewed. We need to trust the license holder and trust the public."

Ollie admits there was bad communication from the Government with the new food regulations, requiring premises to specify and iteminise what customers are eating.

"The rationale behind it is to target the tiny minority, the quarter of one per cent, which are rogue pubs and operating without selling food," he explains. "The penalties are now very severe and pubs won't get their licences renewed if they step out of line."

Future

A LVF spokesperson told the Sunday World that the future will be bleaker if pubs are not allowed to reopen in the next planned phase date of September 14.

"Eleven pubs that we know of in Dublin have closed their doors for good," a spokesperson told us.

"There are about 700 pubs in Dublin. A lot of pubs are now using nearby takeaways so numbers are blurred - there are maybe 550 pubs currently serving food in Dublin and about 200 pubs still closed.

"Well-known pubs such as McDaid's, Grogan's, The Swan on Aungier Street, are all still closed and nationally there are about 25,000 people impacted by the decision to keep pubs shut.

"We are sending out the posters to all pubs across the country and it is highly visual in every constituency across the country.

"It's now become a headache for politicians as even junior ministers have become critical of it and the Tánaiste has said there needs to be a reopening soon.

"If nothing is agreed by next weekend it will be put off again and pubs won't reopen on September 14, which will be a disaster for our industry."

Irish Independent