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28 May 2022

'They may as well close us down completely': Longford publicans slam Nphet's 5pm curfew proposals

Longford pubs

There has been an angry reaction to proposals to introduce a 5pm curfew on bars and restaurants

The Government will effectively close down Longford's entire hospitality sector in one fell swoop if it accepts Nphet's "crazy" proposals to introduce a 5pm curfew from Monday.

Gerry Lynn, chairperson of Longford's Vintners Association, issued a stinging rebuke of the mooted recommendations which were relayed to government chiefs late last night.

"It's just crazy," he said.

"Where do they think people are going to go after 5, 6, 7 or 8pm at night. They are not going to go home to their beds that's for sure."

Mr Lynn said the measures put forward in a letter issued by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was simply not workable for an industry which has been beset by 18 months of stop-start restrictions.

The owner of Edgeworthstown establishment The Sportsman's Inn said should cabinet ministers sign off on the measures, the potential repercussions for pubs and restaurants locally were unthinkable.

"I know we are in the middle of a pandemic, but some of the stuff they are coming out with is baffling," he said.

"They (government) might as well close us down completely if they go through with it."

The proposals are expected to be considered by the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 on Friday afternoon ahead of a full Cabinet meeting later.

Mr Lynn also hinted at a more concealed reason for the rationale behind a 5pm closure time.

"What this is is city centre politics," he said.

"I have been on about the decay of rural Ireland for a while and this is just another nail. It's alright doing this (restricted opening hours) in the cities where you have the footfall, but I have been here (in the bar) today and I had two customers this morning.

"It's just not feasible."

Concerns surrounding the practicality of shortened opening times for bars and restaurants were given equal credence by Longford town publican Andy Byrne.

The local businessman said despite heightened fears over the Omicron variant, hospitality operators were effectively being left in "limbo" by the increasing uncertainty over possible further restrictions.

"I know our health service is in crisis and they are under pressure, but I would rather they (government) do one thing or the other," he said.

"In my opinion they should reintroduce the CRSS (COVID Restrictions Support Scheme) to affected businesses and close us down altogether.

"The situation we are left in is virtually impossible to manage and not financially viable to stay open."

Mr Byrne also said the anxiety felt by pub owners went far beyond licensed premises generally and would likely impact hairdressers, salons and other hospitality providers who may struggle to withstand any further curfew measures being imposed on them.

That scepticism over the well documented recommendations were mirrored by Longford Fine Gael Senator Micheal Carrigy.

In keeping with mounting talk of a backlash among Government backbenches and among some ministers to the 5pm curfew on hospitality, Senator Carrigy described the measures as "draconian" and a "step too far".

He said: "We have vaccine certs for indoor hospitality. What we need to do is rigorously enforce them and allow these businesses to continue to trade."

Cabinet will meet later to finalise decisions but Nphet is also advocating that sporting, theatre and cultural gatherings should not take place after 5pm and that capacity should be cut to 50%, or 5,000 people, for outdoor events.

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