The Louth Vintners Federation (VFI) have hit out at a 'absolutely horrendous lack of support' for the industry as many pubs prepare to reopen next week.
Collette Nugent, Louth VFI President said that publicans across Louth are 'deeply disillusioned' as they attempt to navigate the myriad of guidelines issued over the last week.
As pubs now move to encourage customers back on to their premises after more than three months, the restrictions placed on the industry include customers only being allowed to spend 1 hour and 45 minutes in a premises, and being curtailed to their seats unless they are using toilets, paying or departing.
'It has just been mind-numbing the list of guidelines. We are deeply disillusioned by it all, and with getting no guidance and no support to reopen.'
There are 187 licenced premises in County Louth, which are a mixture of 'wet' and 'dry' pubs, some serving food and others not.
Those serving food are now able to plan their reopening for June 29th, whereas the non-food premises are included in the last phase of re-opening on July 20th.
'Some are deciding to serve food in order to re-open next week, and certainly no one can blame them. But for others, especially smaller pubs, it just wouldn't be feasible, and we won't be back open again until July.'
'It is a very frustrating time for all publicans, they are just distraught, and I know some will be not opening again at all.'
She said that all pubs 'really want to see our customers back again' adding 'People can absolutely expect and be assured that it will be a safe environment, as it always has been.'
Collette said she had 'spoken to many, many people who really missed the social aspect of pubs. Drinking in your back garden, it is not the same, and it is much safer to be consuming alcohol in a pub environment.'
She warned that most publicans were facing 'major cash flow issues' as soon as they reopen, with mounting costs from landlords, suppliers, insurances etc.
'We are calling on the government to look at reduction in excise duty, and/or VAT. This industry needs real tangible support that will help it get back on its feet, or there will be 50,000 people across the country added to the Live Register if they lose their jobs in bars.'
She said the pub trade is 'absolutely vital to the tourist industry' and would be a major part in encouraging visitors to come back to Ireland, and Louth, as the pandemic eases.
But she said there were 'major flaws' in the guidelines for reopening, which were placing additional strain on an already struggling industry.
'For example, a lot of the larger pubs, there are a number of them in Dundalk and Drogheda, they have a more transient trade, but that will make it difficult to keep a check on how long people are actually on the premises. And how on earth are they meant to check that everyone stays within the group they came in with? The nature of pubs is social, people meet others and chat.'
One of the regulations for reopening is that details are kept of the lead person in a group, so that in the event of a Covid case emerging, the contact and tracing system can kick into gear.
'In theory, all these guidelines sound well and good, but how they are going to work in practice we just won't know,' said Collette.
'There is the real challenge of social distancing too, the larger premises will be able to make it work, but what of the large number of smaller pubs, where that just won't be possible?'
She added that publicans were 'literally spending thousands of euro on safety measures such as plexiglass screens, hand sanitising stations and new signage for customers.
'We have great concerns that all of these things will put people off going to the pub, so the Vintners Federation are really calling on people to support this industry, to go back to pubs again, to enjoy those visits like they always have, and help us get the trade back on its feet again.'