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'Another financial blow to a hospitality sector already on its knees'

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Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA said: “Where is the scientific justification for this decision?" Picture: Andres Poveda

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA said: “Where is the scientific justification for this decision?" Picture: Andres Poveda

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA said: “Where is the scientific justification for this decision?" Picture: Andres Poveda

Thousands of jobs are at risk in the pub sector as bars may have to let go part-time staff excluded from the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

The Licensed Vintners' Association (LVA), which represents pubs in the greater Dublin area, has written to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe asking for an urgent amendment to be made to the scheme to help an industry "already on its knees".

As it stands, anybody earning less than €151.20 per week will not receive the subsidy, which will have a massive impact on staff who previously worked on weekends or only one or two days a week.

Bars not serving food have been told they cannot reopen on August 10 as originally planned, while those serving substantial meals will now have to close at 11pm.

Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said the EWSS will cause "significant problems" for bars that are already struggling.

"Anyone working 14 hours a week or less at that rate will not be covered by this scheme," he said.

"That will immediately raise questions as to whether it will be financially viable for pubs operating at 50pc capacity or less to utilise these members of staff.

"The LVA estimates between 20-30pc of staff could be impacted."

Cleaning staff who work short weeks may also be ­seriously affected.

"So while these pubs, who make up the majority of the sector, continue to keep their doors closed by order of the Government - long after the rest of the hospitality sector began trading - they are being hit again by these provisions," Mr O'Keeffe said.

"As they cannot add new staff until they know if they will be reopening, they will not be able to avail of the higher subsidy available under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme which will still apply throughout August.

"They can't make such commitments when they are waiting to know what business conditions will be imposed by the Government on them when they do get the opportunity to trade.

"This means they will miss out on the higher support offered to those who were permitted to open on June 29, 2020.

"We were the first sector to close and most of our industry will be the last to reopen under the Government's reopening roadmap. Yet despite our ongoing efforts to assist with protecting the public health, employees and businesses in our sector continue to be hit again and again."

Mr O'Keeffe added that by not amending the scheme, the Government is dealing another financial blow to the industry "while we're already on our knees".

Finance Minister Mr Donohoe has yet to respond to the LVA. He has already made one U-turn in respect of the EWSS.

Last Friday he confirmed that company directors will now be included in the scheme after they were ­initially excluded.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, called on Mr Donohoe to amend the scheme urgently so that struggling businesses in the hospitality sector can avail of it.

Meanwhile, the LVA confirmed that 11 pubs in Dublin have announced they will not be reopening after being hit hard by the Covid pandemic.

Bakers Pub in the Liberties is the latest bar to make the "very tough decision" not to open again.

"The end of an era has come. We would like to thank all of our amazing staff and loyal customers over the past 16 years," the owners said in a statement.

"We wouldn't have made it this far without all your continued support.

"The memories will last a lifetime. Goodbye and stay safe through these uncertain times."

Customers paid tribute to the "top notch" Guinness and "friendly service".

"So sorry to hear this, our Saturday nights won't be the same," one customer wrote.

Irish Independent