More than 470 hospitality and events firms have signed an open letter to Taoiseach Micheal Martin, calling for a reopening of the economy next month as the Government and public health officials discuss this week how to exit Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.
Limits on restaurants and pubs are set to be central to discussions on what level of restrictions will replace the current ones, where non-essential retail outlets are closed and pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway services.
The open letter, signed by figures from Adare Manor director Anita Higgins to Leigh Williams of Wicklow Brewing Company, said that allowing hospitality, tourism and events industries, and their suppliers – or what’s referred to as the “experience sector” – to reopen in December “will give what could be a final lifeline for many businesses”.
“In our view, the approach that has been adopted by the Government to date has hit parts of the economy like the hospitality and experience sector disproportionality and without sufficient evidence to back such moves. This has and will continue to have a major long-term impact on businesses across Ireland, ” said the letter, the second open communication to the Taoiseach to be published by the group in as many months.
“The available research and data, internationally and at home, provides no clear evidence for the sector to be treated disproportionately with regards decisions to open or close, compared with other parts of the economy. Studies of the virus around the world show only limited examples of spread in hospitality venues, where Covid-protection measures are in place.”
It added: “Conversely, we know that large social and public gatherings are among the riskiest behaviours. If regulated hospitality venues remain closed, it’s reasonable to conclude that people will be driven to unregulated environments and households, where Covid-19 measures may be ignored.”
The open letter, also signed by 15 lobby group figures including the Restaurants Association of Ireland’s Adrian Cummins and Sean Connick of the Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions, said the experience sector contributes €4.5 billion in wages, salaries and employment taxes every year.
More than 330,000 people are either employed directly or supported directly by demand from the sector, it said.
“In the longer-term, the sector, which is vital to the Irish economy, can play a crucial role in the economic recovery which will follow this pandemic, as it did during the recovery of the last economic crisis, when it accounted for one in every seven jobs created,” it said. “Regrettably, this recovery will not be the case if many of these businesses are forced to permanently shut their doors.”