OWNER of Norris’s Bar Martin Colbert is pushing ahead with his plans to reopen on Monday next, in the wake of the Government’s decision to postpone the re-opening of licenced premises until August 31 at the earliest.
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, Mr Colbert insisted that he will be adhering to all Government guidelines as set out for gastro pubs and restaurants by serving meals with alcohol and by implementing a two metre social distancing rule in his Barrack Street pub.
Yesterday’s decision by the Government to postpone Phase Four came as a big blow, but not as a surprise to Martin who said, “This Government has constantly used NPHET as an excuse to cop out on making key decisions…It is as if politicians won’t dare go against what NPHET say to them.” NPHET could have seen pubs as an ally and not the enemy, he said, given that publicans are professionals who know the trade.
According to Martin opening pubs could eliminate the issue of house parties and lessen at home alcohol consumption. He said. “We are the ones who provide a controlled, regulated atmosphere and we are well used to following rules. Instead of engaging with us they went the opposite way.”
Martin acknowledged the seriousness of the pandemic situation, but went on to say that thankfully Covid-19 has only affected a small percentage of the population.
The pubs weren’t part of the problem as they lay empty, but could be part of the solution, Martin believes. Even though he is an off-licence owner, Martin suggested that off licences could be closed at 6pm to eliminate the organisation of last minute parties by young people over social media. “By doing so you are eliminating the availability of alcohol past a certain time, and only limiting it to pubs where things are regulated,” he said.
According to Mr Colbert young people need to socialise and have an outlet to do so. He also feels for pensioners who are missing the social interaction that comes with going to the pub. “There’s no alternative being provided. I think there are mental health implications not just for young people, but also for older people.” Not only that, Martin and his staff have the worry of how they are going to pay their bills if the pub remains closed.
That’s why he feels he has to open on Monday, but stated he will be following all the rules and regulations. “I’m actually going to lose money by opening. I’m going to have to put on extra staff and I’m probably going to lose trade, because it’s not what my regulars want. I don’t want to force people to have food, but a lot of them said to give them the option.”
“My biggest fear is I’m going to have to turn away decent regulars who are friends of mine if I don’t have the space.”
To open his doors he is teaming up with the Blue Jade next door to provide takeaways that can be served to his customers, while they have a pint. He will also be serving pizza.
“I’ve just got to the stage that enough is enough, and if you can’t beat them join them. I will probably implement a two metre policy, so my numbers will be limited. I got a lot of people on a text service and they will be given first choice if they want to pre-book…My biggest fear is I’m going to have to turn away decent regulars who are friends of mine if I don’t have the space.”
He feels that putting a €9 surcharge on people coming into the pub isn’t fair. Therefore, he may have to look at cutting drink prices or putting on a food and drink combo.
“That’s going to eat into our margins. As a matter of fact I would be better off financially if I didn’t open, but this isn’t about money, it’s about keeping in touch with our customers, getting our staff back working and creating some kind of cash flow that I can pass onto my suppliers,” he said. Martin is hopeful that pubs will be given the go ahead to resume normal operations in three weeks’ time. In the meantime, he encouraged other publicans to do the same as he is, but also criticised certain premises that are supposedly open as food bars, but are flouting the laws.