The release of the government’s roadmap for a phased reopening of Irish society and businesses has offered some semblance of hope and structure to anyone wondering about the short to medium term future. It’s also ambitious, hypothetical and, for many companies, totally unachievable. It is not the fault of the government, but we cannot define an exceptional new reality as a new normal. There is nothing normal in the extraordinary.
Many people lack social outlets, and many of those social outlets will be impossible to fit into the delicate structure of physical distancing. For better or worse, the Irish pub is fundamental to socializing in Ireland, and it’s hard to see how pubs, bars and nightclubs will be about to operate on a regular basis by the end of the year. year, if not beyond.
That’s a huge downside, but it also gives us the opportunity to think differently and listen to a wide range of voices in the industry about what needs to happen to make their prospects a little brighter.
Physical distancing requires physical space. Our paths must be wider, our public space more abundant
The idea of operating with physical distancing rules in place is absolute nonsense for most pubs and restaurants. On a practical level, it just won’t work. I imagine for many places it will make more financial sense to stay closed until physical distancing rules are over (the logical timeline for this being whenever a vaccine is rolled out, so that’s a long way off and not completely guaranteed). With that in mind, many places will go to the wall. The situation is dire.
More broadly, in order to cope over the next year, we need to shift our mindsets from wanting things to be over, wanting clear timelines for the lifting of restrictions, aspiring for things to go back ‘to the normal”, and rather learn to cope with what we have and thrive in it. So what new ways can places work? What does a pub look like in the age of the pandemic? And how to save companies?
In Vilnius, Lithuania, the city is ceding large swaths of public space to bars and restaurants so they can better respect physical distancing with outdoor tables. Milan is taking the opportunity to reallocate street space used by cars to cyclists and pedestrians to reduce air pollution, but also because physical distancing requires physical space. Our paths must be wider, our public space more abundant.
One of the ways to ensure a diverse entertainment and hospitality industry is to reduce the barriers and costs of entry to implementing good ideas.
In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a £2.3million Risk Culture Business Support Fund, a relatively small but much needed cash injection, which will go to the Music Venue Trust which supports 147 music venues popular, 56 LGBTQ+ theaters, the Creative Land Trust supporting 200 artist studios, and the British Film Institute to support 25 independent cinemas.
For the reopening of pubs and bars, insurance will be a major stumbling block. The insurance industry is one of the few industries that desperately tries not to fulfill what it is there for. In Ireland, it often looks like an anti-insurance industry, penalizing companies for lawyers’ beloved personal injury claims, inflating premiums with mysterious figures, claiming large-scale fraud even if the evidence isn’t there. to back this up, then stuttering completely when a business actually needs help when disaster strikes.
One of the ways to ensure a diverse entertainment and hospitality industry is to reduce the barriers and costs of entry to implementing good ideas. Opening a pub is an expensive exercise steeped in bureaucracy. Obtaining a license must be simplified. The other thing that needs to change is the license hours themselves. While I don’t really think it’s possible to open pubs even in the fall, a new range of licensing hours could actually play a role in public safety by staggering entry and exit times. exit.
24 hour license
Ireland’s restrictive licensing hours have been staggered for so long, so what better time, with the whole industry shut down, to reform and modernize them. Pubs, bars and clubs should be allowed to choose from a wide range of license hours within a 24 hour period.
Unfortunately for many pubs, the economy of a place like Dublin, for example, is completely incompatible with what physical distancing requires. How can you drastically reduce your customer base when places already had to run at full capacity just to survive? Why is Dublin so different from other European cities where small bars can operate without three-person queues? How are pubs supposed to survive without a drastically reduced VAT rate?
The questions ads face seem almost endless. What are after-work drinks like when everyone is working from home? How will Dublin’s pubs survive without tourism? How are they going to deal with the collapse in corporate bookings? The logic of physical distancing also penalizes small rooms. If you don’t have the space for people to physically distance, you won’t be able to operate.
In order to maintain a diverse nightlife economy, it cannot be left to those with the greatest lobbying power, the deepest pockets, or those who put tourists first. If so, we will end up with an even more homogeneous pub landscape in the capital than we had before the pandemic. It’s time for big ideas and big changes.