West Cork pub owners pour cold water on early re-opening

May 11th, 2020 10:30 PM

By Jackie Keogh

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MANY publicans in West Cork are opposed to their organisations’ bid to seek a reopening of bars in June.

William O’Brien of The Corner Bar on Bridge St, Skibbereen (pictured) said he believed ‘the vast majority would rather wait until August, when the public can come back with a degree of confidence.’

He said: ‘Most publicans are completely against it because it is nonsensical from our point of view. Most of our businesses are wet pubs – in that we serve drink and no food.’

The call to re-open in June is, he suggested, ‘designed to cater for big pubs doing pubgrub. We are in a different situation altogether. In nearly every pub in Skibbereen, customers like to sit at the counter.

‘Under the restrictions, proposed for June, there would be four people per table and they would be spaced out, which means that a pub that would normally accommodate 50 people would be down to 20.’

William said he understood that the vintners’ organisations have a difficult job to do because they represent so many different kinds of publicans. ‘They represent the big places in Dublin doing the food, the small, family-owned pubs like ours and others in West Cork, and the places where people are still paying high rents and are mad to open.’

Gerard Carey, owner of the Horse and Hound in Skibbereen agreed, saying: ‘For the pubs of West Cork, it would not be a runner – we are old school. People come to pubs to talk. It’s fine for food bars but we are not set up that way. We don’t have the space.

‘What do you do?’ he asks, ‘if you let 10 people come in but are asked to stop 10 more. Every customer is a customer – you can’t pick and choose.

‘Pubs want to open – and open properly – but we want to open when we are not forced to regulate in a manner that would be impossible to implement.

‘We do not want to be the source of any friction for our customers. Under the proposed restrictions, there would be a bouncer on the door, and someone else to supervise bathroom breaks. It’d be like school, can I have permission to go to the toilet?

‘A pub is a congregation of people that is moving the whole time. Ordinary pubs are not set up for these rules. The regulations would have to be policed by the publican first, and then the publicans would run the risk of being closed down if they are found to be noncompliant.’

Despite being one of three owners of one of the largest bars in town – the Tanyard and Chasers Nightclub in Main Street – Michael O’Driscoll held the same opinion.

He said: ‘It doesn’t make any sense for pubs to open in June. Restaurants could and gastro pubs could – if it is viable for them, but not for pubs.’

Michael said: ‘We will be bound by the guidelines set out by the national health authority. If and when they say it is safe, we open.’

Michael also called on the Vintners Federation of Ireland to ‘fight on our behalf on a number of issues, such as excise and vat, rates, insurance, and a reopening grant, otherwise a lot of businesses won’t be able to re-open at all.’

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