Words: Shamim de Brún
A cabinet meeting will take place today in the wake of new recommendations from NPHET aimed at stemming the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Yesterday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommended that entertainment and hospitality shut down at 17:00. With bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and more being affected.
Many in the industry had hoped the vaccination programme would lead to safe socialising and a return to norms. Anthony Remedy of House of Bubbles, a new pop up in Dublin 2 said, “ A year ago I was like we’ve got to go with the recommendations, we’ve got to just get through it till we get the vaccine”.
Lockdowns – long hoped to have been made redundant by vaccines – seem to be creeping back in disguise. Last year many in the industry were happy to go along with recommendations. This time the consensus is that “it might be a step too far for an awful lot of people considering the vaccination” There is a lot of comparison to last year but the country is in a very different situation because our vaccination rates are the highest in Europe.
The reaction throughout the industry is one of unfathomable disbelief peppered with rueful indignation.
Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant’s Association of Ireland said the proposed measures would be an effective closure of the sector. “It’s effectively a hospitality lockdown if the recommendations from NPHET are taken on board by the government.”
Gaz Smith of Michaels in Mount Merrion said that “every single element of the hospitality supply chain is in complete disarray today” ahead of the government announcements. He noted there is a through-line from farm to fork with every single stage in jeopardy.
Remedy had a nuanced reaction. In an interview, he said if it was possible to pivot to hosting 150 people for brunch before 17:00, then that’s what he would do. But he acknowledged this is a privileged position to be in. Many restaurants simply don’t have the infrastructure to do this; he said “ I have a team that works during the day, but I’d say 95per cent of places don’t have that”.
Remedy said that it will be the country restaurants that struggle the most under these recommendations. In the fuzzy haze of the interim yuletide season between Christmas and New Year Dublin central restaurants are rarely fully booked. But local restaurants in small towns often do reams of trade. If they have to close at 17:00, will they open at all?
Yesterday minister for housing Darragh O’Brien said he was not expecting any “drastic” recommendations from NPHET, so these substantial changes were a surprise to the industry.
Elsewhere on Char: How to throw a cocktail party that doesn’t cost everyone a fortune.