Ready to serve... the staff in An Sibin, Dunshaughlin, in their protective gear.

Is the glass half full or half empty for our local pubs?

Mixed fortunes for the five pubs in Dunshaughlin

Dunshaughlin village has five long established public houses on its main street, with four currently open for business, and Lawless's, the oldest family-run public house on the main street, remaining closed due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Lawless's Dublin House was one of the many public houses across the country that took part in the VFI's 'Support, not Sympathy' campaign on social media, highlighting how family-run public houses had been closed for five months.

The Dunshaughlin pub, in the Lawless family since 1955, has received very vocal support on its social media post, with many customers looking forward to the day when it reopens. The pub, which doesn't carry a food offering, underwent a major refurbishment project last year, and says it will be looking forward to resuming normal service for its clientele as soon as possible.

Up the street, An Sibin, which has for a long time being regarded almost as a restaurant, was able to maintain and build on that reputation.

While its sister premises, the County Club, remains closed, An Sibin has been able to take on extra staff to cope with the increased demand, and the Covid-19 cleaning requirements. Its business was traditionally 70 per cent food and 30 per cent drink, and it has had to remove 40 seats to allow for social distancing requirements. This leaves a metre to a metre and a half between patrons.

Other pubs in the village have re-opened with food offerings and restricted hours, with some adapting to the new normal. Peter's, Carberry's, and the Arch Bar, which changed hands recently and has seen new investment in its beer garden and function room, are operating shorter opening hours while making food available to their customers.

The campaign launched last week by the two publican groups - the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), is pressing the Government to provide a strong support package for pubs who are unable to open due to the public health circumstances.

Pubs who do not serve food must remain closed at least until 31st August 2020 – meaning 3,500 pubs employing 25,000 people across the country will have been unable to trade by Government order for a minimum of 168 days (46 per cent of a year). This was the second time in three weeks the reopening had been delayed.

If the Government is to further delay the reopening of pubs, both the LVA and VFI have said it is critical that a support package for the industry be simultaneously announced. They have called for measures which offer "meaningful support" in the form of grant aid to be included – not loans or cuts in indirect tax which will not benefit pubs that are closed.

The specific measures put forward by the vintners groups are:Introduction of a ‘Pub Support Package’ which will provide direct financial aid to pubs that are closed by order of the Government; The Re-start Grant Plus scheme is being provided by the Government to all business sectors, including hospitality businesses such as restaurants, cafes, hotels as well as pubs who serve food; maintenance of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) at current rates for all closed pubs until their reopening; xtension of current licences for a period of one year until September 2021 for all licensed premises, except for any licence renewals which the Gardaí intend to object to this coming September.

"As we have made clear from the outset of this crisis, pubs want the opportunity to trade responsibly," said Summerhill man Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the VFI. "The pubs that are still closed can’t wait to get their doors open again, to interact with their customers and to earn a living. These businesses will abide by the public health requirements, they just want the same chance as was granted to the rest of the economy.

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