Once again confusion reigns. When the lockdown was announced and strict protocols put in place everyone understood and accepted the need for this position. Roll on a few months and various stages of reopening began, and then the fog descended. Pubs were to remain closed, but restaurants/hotels serving food were allowed recommence business. Publicans complained, citing that they served food, and over a few weeks, new guidelines emerged. Pubs serving food were allowed to opening under the same conditions as restaurants in July. Seating and social distancing and a time limit on clientele remaining on the premises were to be enforced. That raised a few eyebrows, as a number of pubs suddenly became gastro pubs.
There are over 7139 7-day licensed pubs in Ireland (source DIGI 2019), but it is impossible to identify how many are registered as Gastro pubs. Ironically there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive list of such establishments available. The term appears to have evolved as a marketing ploy to differentiate those offering food from the traditional “wet “pub. Therein lies the problem. The reality seems to be a number of pubs piggybacked the opening opportunity offered to restaurants/hotels serving food, and are therefore were allowed open, whilst “wet pubs” remained closed.
I have been contacted by a number of people questioning the fairness of this scenario. I have heard of pubs bringing in pizzas from outside suppliers and such like, equally, boxes of chicken wings, and worst dirty plates been put on a table to give the impression of a meal having being consumed.
The paradox is this, consider a pub on a street, serving food as above, so no kitchen, no HACCP regulations in place, and no real traceability of food. Then, take the restaurant 100 metres away, it has had its capacity seriously reduced, increased costs re PPE and such like, requirement for HACCP protocol to be in place and unfortunately having had to let staff go, and they have to compete with the pub up the road “serving food”, who are in reality flouting the law. Recent news reports mentioned the fact 123 properties (pubs and restaurants) were found to be in breach of Covid regulations. From my understanding none where closed or forced to cease trading. Why not! If a premises is found to be in breach of the regulations, they should have an automatic closure order placed on them. If this was to happen a few times, compliance would soon result.
Every restaurant / hotel has in - place systems, that allow it record the time, list of food and beverages consumed by the customer, so the new regulation is no big deal. It is however a big deal for the pub, that has decided to begin serving food to allow it open. They more than likely have no systems in place or method of accurate recording and hence the challenging of this new requirement.
Maybe it’s time to consider introducing a licence for the properties serving food. These would need to be HACCP and health compliant and have certificates to confirm same. This way restaurants and hotels would already have these in place, but pubs wishing to serve food would have to obtain these. Problem solved.