LEO VARADKAR is so confident pubs and restaurants will be able to resume indoor service from July he's willing to “put money” on it.
That’s the message the Tanaiste relayed to a group of more than 1,200 publicans who turned out for the Emerging Stronger virtual conference this week.
While social distancing measures will still be required, Varadkar believes the continued rollout of vaccines in Ireland could pave the way for the return of pubs this summer.
The Fine Gael leader said: "Looking at countries that are ahead of us in terms of the vaccination programme, and there aren't many, but ones next door, the UK and looking at Israel for example it's looking really good.
"It really does look like that when you get up to 50 or 60 per cent of the population even just having one dose that the virus doesn't have many places to go.
"And that makes me really hopeful, I have to say, that we'll be allowed do outdoors in June and indoors in July, I'd even dare to put money on it at this stage."
Varadkar also sought to offer reassurance to pubs only serving drink that they would be governed by the same rules as those serving food with the previous rules requiring customers to purchase a “substantial meal” with their pint done away with.
He said: "From June 7 we'll see outdoor dining and outdoor drinking resume and all things going to plan, indoor in July.
"What we've done in the revised plan is end the distinction between wet pubs and gastropubs - let's never hear the term wet pub again.
"And outdoor dining and drinking won't be limited to 15, there will be no requirement to have a substantial meal either."
Though he admitted that the specifics of the restrictions hospitality businesses will face in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have yet to be ironed out.
"We haven't got the guidelines yet worked out,” the Tanaiste said.
“We look forward to working with the Vintners Association and Failte Ireland to get that right.
"But I imagine it will be something in the space of table service only, a lead person whose name will have to be taken for contact tracing and a gap of maybe a metre, a metre and a half between tables."
Ultimately, the return of indoor dining and drinking will come down to case numbers and the overall R-number for Ireland remaining low.
Hospital admissions and, specifically, ICU admissions, will also need to remain at a low level before indoor activity of this kind returns.