An Ardee publican says safety should take priority over anything else as he and thousands of other publicans around the country prepare to sit it out for three more weeks in light of the decision to push back Phase 4 of the countries’ reopening post-lockdown.
The government announced on Wednesday evening that, having received recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), they were pushing back the reopening of pubs that did not serve a ‘substantial’ meal to August 10, having previously brought that date forward to this coming Monday – July 20.
The decision has been met with dismay from publicans and representatives around the country, with many expressing anger that publicans are being scapegoated in advance of any potential second wave of the Covid-19 virus.
Kerry TD Michael Hely-Rae was heavily critical of the decision, airing his displeasure at the treatment of rural pubs in the Dáil. He said the rug had been pulled from under publicans throughout the country. Representatives from the Vintners Federation of Ireland have also hit out at the move, with Louth branch President telling LouthNow.ie that ‘publicans are being vilified and treated like second class citizens.’
However, Ardee man Mark ‘Bogger’ Conlon said he is willing to follow with the public health guidance to ensure the safety of his customers, until he is told otherwise.
“I’m fully respecting of NPHET,” Mark, who runs Hamills on Bridge Street in Ardee told us. “Safety comes first. As much as I’m disappointed, if its not safe to open, its not safe. I’m disappointed with the government, but I’m not disagreeing with them. I think I could offer a safe place to stay.”
While a number of licensed premises in Ardee have opened their doors as they serve full food menus, Hamills remains closed. Mark believes the work he has done to caution against the spread of the virus on his premises is as good as any measures taken by pubs serving food.
“We got dividers in and split up tables. I have no less of a set up than a pub doing food. We’ve been shot down before we got going,” he said. “I haven’t heard of any clusters coming from pubs so far. I can offer as much safety as pubs doing food can. I can do social distancing, I can do the time limit if it came to it.
Mark, who took over the popular drinking hole in the summer of 2015, has installed Perspex divides between tables, removed tables to increasing spacing, installed a traffic light system for the toilets to avoid queuing and has a sensor on the door to ensure it can be locked once the premises reaches capacity. “I’m ready to go.”
While many publicans have bemoaned having to hear they would remain closed so close to the slated reopening date, Mark says that hasn’t upset him in any way. “Every phase didn’t know until the Friday before. We found out on the Wednesday night. I can’t say it is late in the day.”
Publicans have been busy stocking up ahead of their reopening and on Wednesday morning, Mark shared on social media an image of the Guinness delivery truck dropping off some kegs. A once regular sight, now more welcome than ever. But, he said he played it safe. “I didn’t speculate a whole lot in kegs. Wednesday is the normal delivery day so I would have topped up on Wednesday once we got the go ahead.
For all his considered thoughts on having to go without business for another three weeks, Mark admits the news on Wednesday was a hammer blow. “It’s sickening,” he tells us. But he isn’t prepared to play the victim.
“There’s too many publicans crying. Every business is suffering. We need to social distance but we’re a social business. You can’t compare pubs and supermarkets. You have to respect the virus.
“We didn’t get any official regulations yet but we’re going off what the pubs that were open for food were given. Obviously social distancing was going to be an issue anyway.”
The wait goes on.