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08 Dec 2021

Fresh 'wet pubs' reopening hope as Green Party leader says "no decision" taken by government

Longford publicans react and call for greater transparency over easing of lockdown measures

Andy Byrne

Andy Byrne pulling a pint alongside staff member Una Flynn

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has said no decision has been made on the reopening of pubs that don't serve food ahead of the ending of a six week national lockdown next week.

In an interview with the Longford Leader this evening, the Green Party leader said talks surrounding the easing of Level 5 restrictions were ongoing with all options still very much on the table.

"No decision has been made by cabinet yet," he said, adding negotiations between the three government parties would continue over the coming days after fresh talks were held last night.

"We (government parties) had a very good meeting last night and a lot of evidence was discussed about where the transition of the virus came from."

Mr Ryan's apparent reluctance to definitively dismiss the idea of re-opening Ireland's so-called 'wet pubs' come amid heightened speculation licensed premises which serve drink only would be 'sacrificed' to keep restaurants and gastro pubs open in the long term. 

The Dublin Bay South TD's apparent openness to consider the prospect of pubs reopening in the lead up to Christmas was, however, tempered by a decision which he said would be based on advice from experts outside of government circles.

"It will be an evidenced based response and based on best scientific and health advice," he said.

Mr Ryan also appeared to dampen rumours of a potential extension to current lockdown restrictions, saying the time was coming to "open up what we know is safe".

Those remarks were ones which were given a cautious welcome by local publicans.

"I am glad they are taking into account people's businesses and livelihoods because realistically I am out of business eight, going on nine months and if we don't open over Christmas there is a possibility it could go to 12 months," said Longford publican Andy Byrne.

The county town proprietor called for more clarity to be afforded to publicans if the go-ahead is given for their reopening, but said it was imperative continued support was provided to hard pressed license holders should those hopes come up short.

"We need more lead in time to reopen," he said, adding continued continued efforts to roll out a nationwide vaccine was a noteworthy positive development. 

"Realistically Stage Three for would not be viable for me and would not interest me as I would actually lose money by reopening.

"I would rather stay closed with the support of the Government until we can get back to phase one or two." 

Gerry Lynn from Edgeworthstown's Sportsman Inn agreed, stressing publicans needed to see a "clear path" to reopening either before or post Christmas.

"I think at some stage, we have to learn to live with it," he said.

"It's about how we deal with it and educate ourselves. Some businesses might never open again. It's a tough game, being in business, especially now."

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