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Dundon serves up warning as sector struggles

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Emily and Kevin Dundon at the Dunbrody House Hotel

Emily and Kevin Dundon at the Dunbrody House Hotel

Emily and Kevin Dundon at the Dunbrody House Hotel

One third of celebrity chef Kevin Dundon's hotel, restaurant and pub business has been wiped out so far this year, and he believes more needs to be done at government level to support the hospitality sector.

Although the new government guidelines requiring a 28-day hold on itemised receipts doesn't affect him as he has a record of all purchases going back years, Kevin believes it is an added layer of bureaucracy on smaller business owners who may not have the technology to store the information easily.

'We are open five day a week and are residents-only. We would have a hold on the receipts anyway. We wouldn't have walk-ins coming in.'

Staff numbers have fallen from the season usual of 50 to 30 at the Arthurstown hotel.

He said there is a lot of blurring going on as the government makes announcements on pubs serving food, only for wet pubs to be brought into the same conversation.

'Are they going to say Kevin had four pints in such and such a pub on September 14?'

He said: 'In every walk of life you will always get individuals who don't follow the rules and regulations, whether it's a pub, a restaurant or a car manufacturer. You can never legislate for individuals like that. I think the vast majority of business owners in Ireland are diligent in how they are going about their business. For the businesses who aren't, it's a very long road that doesn't have a turn.'

Having reopened Dunbrody Country House Hotel on July 20, business has been steady.

'We didn't reopen our spa or our gastro pub because of access in and out. Business in the hotel has been brisk: occupancy levels are good. I think the country properties, in general, have done well in July and August but Dublin is devastated. This is the first advantage in 23 years of being in a country setting. Usually Dublin benefits in these scenarios.'

Kevin welcomed the government's Stay and Spend tax-back initiative, but suggested the rebate could have been paid within 31 days. He remains to be convinced about how effective it will be.

'I think people who are going to travel will travel anyway. The fact that you have to wait a full year to get a rebate is a negative. With the technology they have it should be possible to have it within a month. They have an app to upload all of the receipts quickly so why not for a rebate.'

He said the measure taken during the last recession which saw VAT reduced to 9 per cent within the hospitality sector had a hugely positive impact. 'That touched every single hotel and restaurant and everyone got something back and throughout that process we grew employment to 250,000 people [within the sector]. I can never understand why they didn't do that again. Instead they dropped the VAT rate on alcohol from 23 per cent to 21 per cent.

'These are challenging times, not just for the hospitality sector, but for everybody. In March, we were completely booked up with international visitors for the summer and not a single one of them came.'

Staycationers from across the country have kept business buoyant all summer and Dundon has started doing more cookery classes and live shows on social media. 'I've a slow cooking course starting on Monday and will be doing live TV shows going into the States and Toronto.'

Kevin is optimistic that there will be somewhat of a return to normal by spring, but fears for the future of his native Dublin unless employees return to offices.

New Ross Standard