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Publicans voice their fury as Varadkar warns of even more reopening delays

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‘Singled out’: Con Dennehy and Kate Tierney run The Venue bar in Cork. They were ‘totally shocked’ at the decision not to let pubs reopen on July 20. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

‘Singled out’: Con Dennehy and Kate Tierney run The Venue bar in Cork. They were ‘totally shocked’ at the decision not to let pubs reopen on July 20. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

‘Singled out’: Con Dennehy and Kate Tierney run The Venue bar in Cork. They were ‘totally shocked’ at the decision not to let pubs reopen on July 20. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Only a generous Government support package for the pub industry will prevent hundreds of outlets from failing to reopen after the Covid-19 ­pandemic.

The warning came as rural publicans and rural TDs slated the Government decision to postpone the reopening of pubs until August 10 - as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar bluntly warned that it could be further delayed beyond that date.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said publicans, their families and customers had been "let down" and he asked: "Why weren't they told sooner?"

Michael Collins, a TD from Cork South-West, said it was a "disastrous decision" for rural pubs to be placed in the same reopening phase as nightclubs, adding that they are "totally different businesses".

TD Danny Healy-Rae said: "Tis fairly foolish to think that the virus can know whether you're eating with your pint or not."

Fellow TD Michael Healy-Rae said pubs were being treated "very unfairly" as they had restocked ahead of next Monday and organised worker rosters before the Government had "pulled the rug out from underneath them".

He said rural pubs were unique and catered for very small groups of people.

A number of TDs said some pubs may see as few as four or five customers a night.

One said there was "an awful difference between Dame Lane and Ballinskelligs" - a reference to the much-criticised crowding seen outside some pubs in Dublin's Dame Lane on a recent weekend, suggesting there wouldn't be an increase in coronavirus cases if pubs were reopened. 

Mr Varadkar said he could understand what a "hammer blow" the news had been for publicans, adding: "I don't think I'm the only person in this House who was looking forward to freedom pints next week."

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Publicans expressed fury at the Government's treatment of their industry and warned that without VAT cuts and generous support packages, Ireland could witness the death knell for many rural and small urban pubs.

Cork publicans Kate Tierney and Con Dennehy said they were "totally shocked" by the Government decision - and livid it was done while flights from virus-hit parts of the US were arriving "effectively unchecked" at Dublin Airport.

The couple run The Venue Bar in Ballintemple in Cork - and admitted they were angry at the plight now facing hundreds of their fellow publicans.

"I was livid," Ms Tierney said.

"I was so angry when I heard the news about the reopening being postponed and yet that 14 flights had arrived from the US. What is the purpose of keeping pubs closed if we are allowing tourists into Ireland effectively unchecked from the US where some states have soaring cases of Covid-19?

"They have kept the pubs from reopening but yet this has been ignored?

"It really does feel as if the pubs and publicans are being singled out."

Mr Dennehy stressed that hundreds of vulnerable smaller pubs in Irish cities, towns and villages now need help just to survive into 2021.

"I think cutting the VAT rate from 23pc to 9pc would be a good start," he said.

"But the Government has to offer support packages for publicans who are now being told that their peak season is going to be only a fortnight, from August 10 until the finish of the so-called builders holidays at the end of August."

Michael O'Donovan, of Cork Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), said the postponed reopening was "a financial disaster" for the sector.

"There are publicans around Ireland now looking long and hard at this and wondering if there is any point in them ­reopening at all," he said.

Mr Dennehy and Ms Tierney had intended keeping The Venue closed until all Irish pubs were cleared for opening.

However, they have now decided to reopen from Monday thanks to their pizza oven.

"We used to serve pizzas from Thursday to Sunday but we will now be serving pizzas each day," she said. "It was never our plan. We had intended to stay closed but we feel we have to open now."

She said that for most Irish holidaymakers, a true 'staycation' is all about the conviviality of an Irish pub visit.

"I am just so angry at the ­Government," she said. 

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