Nightclubs can reopen with 100 per cent capacity, says Catherine Martin

Nightclubs can reopen with 100 per cent capacity, says Catherine Martin

The meeting between Government officials and the hospitality sector has ended.

The expectation is that the Government will shortly issue the full guidelines in relation to the reopening of nightclubs and music venues, as well as revised guidance for pubs and restaurants.

It is understood that a number of issues remained unresolved between parties at the end of the discussion.

The first meeting which began shortly after 4pm was postponed for over an hour after it emerged the nightclub guidelines were not ready.

Sources said that the capacity in pubs and restaurants will not be 100 per cent but will be the maximum number of customers that can be allowed under social distancing rules.

While some have put that figure at 70 per cent capacity, sources said in many cases it will be much higher. Nightclubs will be allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity.

A concession that has been given to pubs is that if there is a designated performance area and a designated dance floor, dancing will be allowed to live music in those circumstances.

A member of the hospitality industry involved in the talks said: “There are still quite a number of issues that we are not happy with.”

In a tweet earlier, Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association said that the rationale Government officials used for the stricter rules on social distancing in restaurants and pubs than in nightclubs was because the latter had “a younger and lower risk demographic. Restaurants and pubs are an older demographic with a higher risk factor.”

Earlier, Minister for Culture and Arts Catherine Martin said the decision by the Government to allow 1,500 people stand at concert venues and 100 per cent capacity at nightclubs represented real progress when it came to the reopening of the sector.

Speaking to the media outside Government Buildings on Thursday night, Ms Martin said at that point that talks were ongoing but progress had been made.

She pointed to 100 per cent capacity at nightclubs and also to the change whereby people will be able to order drinks at bars and then return to their seats.

“This is a sector that has been closed since March 2020. We want it now that it is open to remain open. We want the owners, the event organisers and the public to respect [the guidelines] so that we can keep the venues open,” she said.

Asked about the delays in negotiations and the lateness of engagement with the sector, she said: “If we go back to a few weeks ago the Cork Jazz [Festival] was to mark the grand reopening and the lifting of restrictions. But everything changed in the last seven days with Covid-19.

“Unfortunately that is the one constant that throws up something at us and complications arise.”

Referring to correspondence from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), she said: “The Nphet letter arrived late on Monday night. The three party leaders met and we had to go straight into negotiations which we did on Tuesday with the industry.

“We hope this is progress for them. It’s the best we can do. It is moving in the right direction. We have to be cognisant of Covid too. It may not be what they hoped for on October 22nd but it is still further progress on where we were in the last few days.”

She insisted that engagement had happened and had been ongoing since Tuesday.

“My priority has been finding a position that would allow everyone to show progress and at the same time respect where we are at with Covid,” she said.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) gave a “guarded welcome” to the new guidelines for hospitality.

“Whilst social distancing remains within restaurants, pubs and hospitality on the advice of public health, the increase in table numbers and return of multiple bookings is welcome.

“We are calling on every restaurant, pub and hospitality venue to abide by the guidelines, do the right thing to protect our customers, staff and the health of the nation. Our industry is moving forward in the right direction,” said the RAI’s chief executive Adrian Cummins.

The Government has made a major concession to live music venues by dropping the requirement that all people attending concerts will not be allowed leave their seats.

Ms Martin ha

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