VFI says pubs facing 50,000 job losses

VFI says pubs facing 50,000 job losses

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) has warned that the decision yesterday (Monday) to move the Republic of Ireland to level three Coronavirus restrictions will cost 50,000 bar staff their jobs.

Describing the announcement as ‘another devastating development’ for the pub sector, the trade body called on the government to introduce immediate additional support for licensees, including a substantial increase in the Restart Grant.

The move to level three restrictions was announced by Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a televised address last night during which he rejected the advice of the government’s public health experts to move to level five measures. Mr Martin said that such a shift would have had ‘severe implications’ for the country.

Counties Donegal and Dublin were already under level three controls following surges in the number of Covid-19 infections in those areas.

The new regime has widespread implications in many areas, including tighter limitations on gatherings and travel and a requirement for people to work from home if possible.

The VFI warned, however, that the hospitality sector had already borne the brunt of the affect of lockdowns and restrictions, with many pubs only opening their doors a fortnight ago after being since March 15.

The level three restrictions mean that bars, cafés and restaurants will now only open for delivery, take-away and table service outdoors to a maximum of 15 people at a time. Hotels and guesthouses can now only serve residents and nightclubs and live music venues will remains closed.

Here in Northern Ireland, licensed premises remain open and subject to strict virus-control measures including an 11pm curfew. With infection rates remaining consistently high, however, there is much speculation around the introduction of stricter controls later this week, including the possibility of some sort of temporary lockdown, which is being referred to as a ‘circuit breaker’.

First Minister, Arlene Foster said yesterday that such a scenario was still avoidable if people adhered to the existing rules.

‘The important thing to do is work with us and comply with the guidance and regulations out there,’ she told the BBC. ‘We know the impact they have on people’s way of lives, we don’t want to have to move to further restrictions.’

In the Republic, the VFI’s chief executive, Padraig Cribben, says that it was impossible to overstate the impact that the move to level three will have on publicans.

‘There now must be a return to the original Pandemic Unemployment Payment for pub staff along with liquidity supports that will allow our members to re-establish their businesses once the restrictions are removed,’ said Mr Cribben. ‘As a customer-focused sector, disproportionately impacted by restrictions, the very least publicans require is an emergency bail out fund that will support our members until they can return to normal trading conditions.’

Mr Cribben went on to say that when pubs reopened a fortnight ago, there had been some hope that the sector could trade its way to a successful Christmas, but that this now looked impossible.

‘While government say these restrictions will remain in place for three weeks, we have learned from bitter experience that reopening dates can move at the last minute,’ he added. ‘Next week’s Budget is a crucial opportunity for the government to show its commitment to the pub sector by announcing a series of measures that will restore confidence to a battered trade.’