Sunday, October 17

Covid Countdown Brings Heartbreak and Hope to Irish Pubs | Coronavirus

The 2009 romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer has nothing to do with Irish pubs, but it might end up being an epitaph for some of them.

When Ireland went into lockdown just before St. Patrick’s Day in 2020, the bar owners expected to reopen after a few weeks, or in the worst case, a few months.

A clock on the website from the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), which represents Dublin pubs, shows the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds that some of its members have been waiting to reopen.

July 16 showed 487 days. If all goes well, they can open before July 26, 497. By then, the government has promised to allow indoor hospitality to resume for customers who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the infection.

It will mark the end of one of the longest lockdowns of its kind in Europe and a step towards the recovery of an industry that prides itself on being a cultural and social institution.

For some pubs it will be too late. Dozens have closed and many more are expected to be forgotten when banks, homeowners and other creditors knock on the door later in the year.

“It has been absolutely devastating,” said Noel Anderson, president of the LVA. “The impact on the industry is as severe as possible. The real test will be when the government [financial] the supports begin to diminish “.

In the blockbuster film Summer, it is the name of a young woman who enchants, and breaks the heart, of a character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

For Irish pubs, the season feels equally whimsical. Those serving food were able to open under strict conditions in June 2020, only for indoor hospitality to close again in September after a new wave of infections.

Pubs were allowed to serve take out pints in winter and spring, and last month those with outdoor seating were allowed full service outdoors. Approximately two-thirds of pubs in Ireland operate within these limitations. Those without outdoor options remain closed.

“I have several friends almost closed for 500 days,” Anderson said. “It has been torturous for them to watch other people trade well and you have to wait your turn.”

Those with outdoor service obsessively scan the skies and check weather apps because rain and wind, omnipresent threats to an Irish summer, drive customers away. A downpour during the final of Euro 2020 last Sunday sabotaged hopes for a bonanza.

Joe Cahill, the manager of McLaughlin’s in Dun Laoghaire, south Dublin, hopes to open soon. “I will be delighted to return. I’ve missed meeting the customers, the fun, the jokes. “

Joe Cahill, manager of McLaughlin's pub in Dun Laoghaire, south Dublin.
Joe Cahill, manager of McLaughlin’s pub in Dun Laoghaire, south Dublin. Photograph: Rory Carroll / The Guardian

Ireland and the United Kingdom were the only European countries where alcohol consumption did not decline during the first wave of covid, according to a study in the journal Addiction, which suggests a big shift towards drinking at home.

Cahill knows two regulars who have installed bars in their homes, but is confident that the pub’s health measures, including an air quality monitor and a new air-conditioning unit, will lure people back. “We offer a social service as much as anything else.”

Avril McKeever, the owner of McKeever’s Bar & Lounge, a 153-year-old pub 30 miles north of Dublin that has no outdoor service, is excited but wary of reopening.

He had to dump stock during the first crash and tried to deliver beer on a drone, but it ended up closed for more than a year. “How did I stay sane? A miracle. I’ve been painting, cleaning, gardening, I did everything. “

She plans a cautious opening. “We’re going to buy the basics and if we run out of stock, too bad.” McKeever worries about looming bills, that the Delta variant will cause another lockdown, that customers won’t come back for fear of the virus. “I don’t see it being the same again because there will be a lot of nervous people.”

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