‘You need to keep your head up and plug on!’

NEW RULES Challenging time for hospitality sector

The challenges of the latest public health restrictions are something the hospitality has to “roll with” one industry leader has said.

Last Friday Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced a raft of restrictions following advice from the chief medical officer and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Taoiseach Martin said the reintroduction of the restrictions were required the in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Under the measures, masks must be worn when not at the table and the closing time for the premises remains at midnight. Indoor events, including gigs, concerts and sporting events, can only reach 50% capacity.

The restrictions will be in place from December 7 until January 9. The rules say restaurants and bars can only offer table service, which means customers cannot queue at a bar for drinks; social distancing rules are being reintroduced with a minimum of 1m (3ft) between tables; a maximum of six adults can sit together at a table; and a ban on multiple table bookings.

The hospitality sector face challenges they had thought were behind them when restrictions were lifted last October. Gearóid Lynch and his wife Tara are the proprietors of The Olde Post Inn in Cloverhill, Cavan. In mid-November they also opened the doors of The Duck Inn, a new gastro pub attached to The Imperial Bar in Cavan Town.

“You got to roll with the public health needs and get on with it,” Gearóid says of the latest imposition on his business, “hopefully it will be short lived, it’s only down for few weeks.”

It’s a very pragmatic response given that restrictions run through the busiest period for the hospitality industry, and the lucrative Christmas party season makes the lean months of January and February a little more bearable.

“It’s about looking after the groups of two, four and six that you do get. We are not unique in that regard. The small groups are quite strong. The Duck Inn is very busy with small groups. Obviously all the large groups are cancelled, and rightly so,” he says.

The renowned chef is confident people’s patterns of social interactions will continue in the early months of 2022: “Drink is not the main emphasis of going out any more. People will have a drink or two, but the idea of going to the pub and having a load of drink is not really there any more. People are more inclined to go out for a meal and then head home, but the big problem at present is the availability of taxis,” he says.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Gearóid acknowledged, “You need to keep your head up and plug on. Our reputation with Cloverhill and our location in Cavan Town means we are uniquely set up, but we all need to ensure we have our food and service right for our customers.”