Pubs and restaurants 'unlikely' to reopen at Christmas - says Leo Varadkar
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Pubs and restaurants 'unlikely' to reopen at Christmas - says Leo Varadkar

PUBS and restaurants in Ireland are likely to remain shut for Christmas, according to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

In a conference call with 10 business groups on Monday evening, Mr Varadkar said the country would likely be on Level 3 restrictions when it emerges from the imminent Level 5 lockdown in early December.

Under these rules, indoor dining would be banned, with limits of 15 people dining outdoors at pubs and restaurants.

Sitting outside might be an option, but unless every pub in the country invests in some fabulous heating systems, there's little chance we'll all be keen on having our Christmas dinner out in the cold.

As of midnight on Wednesday, Ireland will move to Level Five restrictions - effectively a second full lockdown - for six weeks. The only difference between now and the first lockdown back in the Spring is that schools will remain open.

From Wednesday, all restaurants, bars and pubs (including 'wet-pubs') will only be able to operate on a takeaway basis.

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Unless the country moves to a Level Two or One following the six weeks of Level Five, pubs and restaurants won't be able to take advantage of what would usually be an extremely busy Christmas period, with social distancing rules, enforced closing times and capacity limits still in place.

Pubs have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the majority around the country being forced to remain shut for nearly seven months, and even those that could open have only been able to do so on restrictive basis.

CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said 30% of the industry's income is made during Christmas.

"If we don’t have an opportunity to trade during December, and that 30% of income doesn't come into our businesses, it's game over for at least 50% of the businesses that we represent," he said.

"It's that serious."