PUBS IN Ireland could reopen for outdoor service from May 24th.
The reopening of hospitality venues from late next month would ensure the Republic remains in line with Northern Ireland when it comes to lifting restrictions.
Failure to reopen from that date could potentially lead to an increase in the number of people hopping the border to socialise and enjoy a pint or two.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has warned that the Irish Government may end up with little choice but to lift the restrictions on pubs serving outdoors.
With Ireland experiencing warmer temperatures and lockdown fatigue setting in, there have been increasing reports of large outdoor gatherings in parks and beaches.
The LVA argues that the only way for the authorites to control outdoor socialising is to allow for the reopening of pubs.
Chief executive Donall O’Keeffe explained: “The Government risks being left behind by the public if it denies outdoor hospitality service resuming next month.
“The levels of outdoor socialising are going to rise either way in the coming weeks as the weather gets milder and the public health situation improves.
“Really the choice is whether to have increased levels of outdoor socialising take place in the controlled settings provided by hospitality or leave it unfettered and uncontrolled.
“Pubs and restaurants can offer managed outdoor spaces with social distancing and other public health protocols implemented.
“Access to public toilet facilities has become an area of concern in recent weeks, especially in Dublin.
“Permitting outdoor hospitality service enables the public to access a vastly increased number of toilets.
“We estimate this decision alone will increase the number of toilets available by approximately 1,500 across Dublin.”
The calls come as some pubs in Ireland marked 400 days since they were last open.
Once outdoor services have resumed, the LVA believes the next step should be for the reopening of indoor services a month later in June.
O’Keeffe said: “It is widely acknowledged outdoor activities are relatively safe and given the expected progress of the vaccine rollout we believe the end of May would
represent a reasonable timeframe to permit this activity.
“That should be followed by indoor service resuming in June as more of the population is vaccinated and is in line with hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs reopening.
“The risk profile for indoor service is the same in all hospitality settings and we will not accept any move to prioritise the reopening of certain sections of hospitality over others.
“The number of licensed premises providing takeaway service is growing week to week and we fully expect that trend to further grow throughout May.
“This is not something we have sought, but it is legally permitted and has been throughout the last year.
“Our members are already reporting overwhelming demand from the public who are asking them to provide this service. Based on that feedback we expect if outdoor service isn’t permitted then more and more pubs will begin offering takeaway service in the near future.”
The early reopening of pubs could chime with Micheál Martin’s plans with the Taoiseach telling RTE over the weekend that 'Outdoor activities will be the theme of summer'