“COVID hasn’t just packed its bags and left Ireland”
The pubs and clubs were packed to the rafters, but there has been a cautious welcome from the president of the Louth Vintners Federation at the sudden turnaround in COVID restrictions over the weekend.
Collette Nugent said, although fantastic news, the hospitality industry should still be on their guard and not think ‘all bets are off’ just yet.
"COVID 19 didn’t just decide to pack its bags and leave Ireland on Saturday morning, and we have to be careful that all our staff aren’t sick, dead or dying in two weeks time, forcing us to close doors once more,” says Collette, who also runs the Market Bar in Drogheda.
"My own pub was stuffed with customers at the weekend, which is great, but there were a lot of strangers who clearly thought ‘War is over, it’s freedom day’, and I’m still trying to protect my regulars, with staff wearing masks and social distancing still.”
Collette says she doesn’t want to be a Debbie Downer as she was dubbed by one of her members, but at lot of businesses were caught off guard by the sudden U-turn.
"After we got over the initial shock and then euphoria, there was some anger that changes were being introduced so suddenly and not phased in over the weekend,” she explains. “Some were caught with their pants down and didn’t have licences, while others had anticipated something and could open.”
She says some publicans were happy with the 8pm closing, and disgruntled it is being scrapped.
"For the first time, many publicans had a life again, and customers had adjusted to coming in for their pint at 5pm, and leaving earlier,” says Collette. “Of course I said there’s nothing stopping them keeping those hours!”
Queues into Earth niteclub snaked along Stockwell Street on Saturday night, and it was standing room only in most bars, with restaurants at capacity too.
"There were two age groups particularly affected by COVID – the teens who missed out on their grads, leaving cert celebrations and social life, and the older punters, who could be on borrowed time,” she says. “I don’t blame either of them for partying, but for most, they headed out in case restrictions are re-introduced, which could happen if we end up with sick staff.”