- 18 Sep 20
The Government has made a decision to raise Dublin to what is called Level 3 in the new ‘masterplan’. However, in what is seen by everyone in the business as a sickening blow, Level 4 restrictions have been imposed on restaurants and bars.
The Government has taken the decision to move Dublin into the so-called Level 3 zone today, in relation to coronavirus restrictions. However, the hospitality industry in the capital has been dealt an even heavier blow, with rules from Level 4 being applied – meaning that there is a complete ban on dining indoors in the Dublin area, from tonight at midnight.
"I know the restrictions will make many people angry but we have very clear advice that they will save lives," the Taoiseach Micheál Martin (pictured) said.
"As a nation, throughout our history, we have come through every manner of trial and hardship. And this too will pass."
However, there are many who do not feel remotely as sanguine as the Taoiseach. The move in relation to restaurants in particular is hugely controversial, with many business owners in Dublin believing that this might be the end of the line for them.
“I honestly don’t think we will ever open again,” one restauranteur, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Hot Press. “It has been a terrible fucking ordeal, trying to cope with the situation over the past six months. We struggled through one complete shut-down. We cut staff. We have abided by the rules. We have invested in making changes to the premises. And now we get this. I don’t think I have the emotional reserves to carry on. It is our worst nightmare come to pass.”
The decision comes on the foot of recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team. The acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronan Glynn has insisted, in a letter sent to the Government, that the decision to move the capital to Level 3 is a ‘proactive and proportionate’ response.
Rising infection rates of Covid-19 infection in Dublin have been a cause for concern in recent weeks.
"Right now the hospitals are coping,” the head of the HSE Paul Reid said in a Tweet today, "but we will see our hospital system coming under pressure.” He added that it "doesn't take a large number of cases to start freezing wards and beds."
However, people involved in the hospitality industry in Dublin have been hugely critical of the decisions taken by the Government, arguing that there is no clear evidence that restaurants have been a cause of the rising infection rates. Some have pointed out that schools are much more likely to be a locus for the spread of the infection – and yet they remain open.
In addition to the effective closure of restaurants and bars, the imposition of a general Level 3 status on Dublin will also mean an outright ban on “social or family gatherings”; no "indoor gatherings", for concerts or other public events; no sports matches (except so called ‘elite sports’); and a maximum of 15 people in outdoor areas in restaurants, bars and what have been dubbed ‘wet bars’.
People are also being told not to travel outside Dublin except for essential purposes.
The devastating news comes at the end of a day in which the Irish Live Music and Entertainment industry joined forces under the EPIC banner, to make an urgent appeal to the Government for additional support. The letter was signed by U2, Hozier, Sinead O’Connor, Christy Moore, Dara O Briain, Gavin James and dozens more of our leading performers, as well as representatives of all of the leading live music and entertainment businesses and companies.
"We are unique,” the EPIC letter said, "in that we are the only sector completely closed under government mandate; as a result, through absolutely no fault of their own, live entertainment workers currently have little or no employment opportunities.”
One of the major issues arising from today’s decision has to do with its financial implications. The closures in Dublin will further cost the economy, with further, substantial losses in tax revenue. On top of that, the Government has committed to making additional funds available for the restart grants that have already been put in place – though the qualifying criteria have not yet been made clear.
Without radical thinking on the part of the Government, the inevitable effect will be to reduce the amount available for the already existing emergency needs – including those of musicians, live industry professionals and others in the creative economy.
It is, without a doubt, another terrible body blow for the music, hospitality and entertainment industries.