Since Leo Varadkar has confirmed outdoor service in pubs, we all have been excited and been counting down the days until the reopening of our favourite pubs. Since March last year pubs have been closed and only recently have started serving drinks over the hatch. Before Christmas last year, pubs could reopen for a short time with regulations like €9 meals and time limits. Things are different this time, so what can we expect? I sat down with Ed, the owner of Tully’s in Carlow. He gave me a closer look into the preparations that are running for the reopening of his pub in Carlow town and what we can expect.
Tully’s is a student bar in Carlow and one of many pubs that is excited to finally open the doors again to serve their customers. “Yeah, we are really excited. It’s been a long six month period and we really want to see our customers again”, said Ed when I was talking to him.
For the last week, he had a blackboard outside his venue, counting down how many days are left until we can have a pint again.
Alike many other bars Ed and his team have been selling drinks over the hatch during the last months to keep the connection with their customers. “The hatch was great, we got great support. It was great to see our regular customers coming back for a coffee or a takeaway cocktail. It was brilliant just to be able to engage with our customers again. We really enjoyed that.” Now that pubs are opening up again for outdoor table service, there is a lot of excitement in everyone, customers, and employees.
Preparations have been running to ensure public health and safety because overall, securing their customer’s safety is a top priority. “It’s been an awful lot of work. It was a huge amount of physical work getting our spaces ready. And a huge amount of office work getting our guidelines and everything else in place.”
What we all want to know is, how is it gonna work?
No more time limits
“There is no time limit.” We can now finally sit in pubs’ outdoor areas and stay for as long as we want. “Unless the table is booked later in the evening there is no reason for you to leave the pub.”
Will we have to book in? “Every venue is doing what they feel is best for them. Lots of venues are doing walk-in only, other venues are taking bookings only. We are doing a bit of both, we are taking bookings on some tables and walk-ins on others.”
No more food requirements
Different from the last time around when pubs were allowed to reopen we can now sit down at a table without having to purchase a €9 meal. “There is no requirement to purchase food if you wish to drink. You can just purchase alcohol now. That requirement is gone. Of course, if places are selling food you can buy it which is great.”
On a personal note, I can say that I was surprised at how good some of the food was that pubs are selling. Therefore, not having the food requirement should not hold you back from trying their food anyway.
“It’s a reduced capacity with the social distancing requirements. We reckon we can serve somewhere between eighty and ninety people. We have quite a large space.” This of course depends on the pub you are going into. Bigger pubs in Dublin or other big cities are serving more people.
Just as everywhere else, COVID health guidelines will still be in place. Pub workers will have to wear face masks and so do customers when not at the table. The max number of people at one table is six with a one-meter distance between two chairs from different tables.
When are pubs reopening fully?
The COVID Guidelines are the reason for Ed to be cautious when predicting the future. “I wish I could tell [when we are reopening fully]. I wish I could be confident. I don’t know. It’s all about public health and public safety first and foremost. We’ll be guided by public health advice. But I’d be confident that something approaching normal before Christmas, maybe even as early as September. By Christmas hopefully, we will be back to our normal venue again.”
September may seem a long time away but there is hope. Alongside Varadkar announcing outdoor pubs he also says that there is the opportunity of pubs opening their full venue – indoor and outdoor – as soon as July.
However, with the weather being as good as it is at the moment a cocktail and some food outside sounds like a nice summer ahead. In the end, we will all be enjoying the possibility to see our friends again and go for a drink with them.
When it comes to the weather tho we have to be aware that there is the chance of it not staying as good as it is now. Overall, we are still in Ireland with weather changes as often as every five minutes. For that too, Ed has some tips. “It is vital that people wear a coat, bring an umbrella and put on an extra layer and just be prepared for all the four seasons in one evening.”
The interview with Ed showed the other side of pubs reopening: how people working there are feeling about the reopening. While still having to comply with all the guidelines, everybody is excited to open their doors again and hopefully not having to close them anymore. The importance of us customers has come to the focus and how important the interaction between customers and bar employees is.
Now knowing all the upcoming regulations for tomorrow and what we can expect with pubs reopening in Ireland there is nothing in our way of enjoying a nice drink with our friends.