With pubs that have restaurant licences preparing to open on June 29 following an industry-wide shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Fáilte Ireland last night published guidelines on the requirements landlords will need to adhere to in order to welcome customers and operate in the 'new normal'.

Customers will now be restricted to spending a maximum of one hour and 45 minutes in a premises at any one time. The guidelines also indicate that an additional 15 minutes will have to be put aside by the business for cleaning between bookings and to allow customers to leave without mixing with the next group coming in.

And pubs, gastro pubs and bars will now be required to collect contact information from the lead person in a party in order to facilitate contact tracing in the event of a positive case of Covid-19 later being identified.

The Fáilte Ireland guidelines also say that where two-metre physical distancing is not possible, businesses are now allowed to implement a one-metre rule in controlled environments, once other risk mitigation requirements have been met.

These mitigating requirements include:

  • Use of additional signage to ask customers not to enter if they have symptoms
  • Regulated entry so premises do not become overcrowded, with pre-booking encouraged as much as possible
  • Customers must be seated at a table except when using the toilet, paying and departing, with clear signage indicating the location of and route to the toilets
  • Enforcement of a strict queuing system and limitations on the number of users of the toilets at any one time to ensure physical distancing
  • Floor markings should be used to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice, particularly in the most crowded areas, like serving counters and tills
  • Regular announcements should be made to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • Plexiglass barriers should be placed at tills and counters, if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
  • The number of servers per group of guests should be limited to the smallest number that is practical
  • Disposable or laminated menus that can be adequately cleaned after each use should also be used, with unnecessary items removed from tables

The guidance also says consideration should be given, where practical, to workers providing services to only one gathering and that they should not move between multiple gatherings in different venue locations such as function rooms.

Where possible, facilities such as toilets should not be used simultaneously by multiple gatherings but, if they are cleaned in between usage, they may be used separately by different gatherings within the same time period.

If physical distancing proves difficult in the kitchen area, the guidelines say employers need to consider other measures such as dividing the kitchen into zones with an employee allocated to each zone, the staggering of workstations on either side of the service area so that food workers are not facing one another and the provision of PPE such as face masks, disposable gloves and clean aprons/uniforms.

The publication of the guidelines follows 24 hours of intensive discussions between Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Health, with the tourism body concerned about aspects of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidance, including a requirement for customers to be restricted to spending a maximum of 90 minutes in a pub or restaurant at any one time and contact tracing measures that proposed contact details being collected from everyone in a group.

Fáilte Ireland said such concerns were addressed and a number of changes were accepted by the HPSC, but the tourism body was quick to point out that the current guidelines should be viewed as “living documents” which will evolve to reflect new Government advice and changes to protocols when they emerge.