Many reopening pubs will be forced to limit patrons to one-eighth of their normal capacity under the Government’s two-metre rule for social distancing, a publican-commissioned analysis concludes.
The report for the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) appeals to the Government to reduce the State’s social distancing guidelines to one metre, as the World Health Organisation suggests as its minimum safe distance.
Both publican groups also are lobbying the Government to permit pubs with restaurant licences to open on June 29, the date set for restaurants to reopen. Pubs are expected to wait until August 10 under the State’s phased plan for exiting the Covid-19 lockdown.
The analysis by Knapton Consulting Engineers found that the typical pub would see customer capacity slashed by 87pc if the two-metre rule between patrons is enforced.
In normal conditions, a pub typically can accommodate two people per square metre when standing, or one person seated at a table. This translates into a maximum 200 customers standing, or 100 sitting, in a given 100 square metres.
The report finds that the HSE’s two-metre rule would drop capacity in that same space to just 25 people standing or 34 sitting.
By contrast, it found, the WHO tolerance for one-metre spacing would allow that same space to contain 100 standing customers – four times as many. Those dining in seated areas could be nearly doubled to 65.
The report found that many traditional smaller pubs would face a challenge even getting a tenth of usual customer traffic into their tight layouts.
“Physical distancing will result in a greater reduction in occupancy for narrow, small pubs than on those with larger-circulation spaces with higher footfalls,” it found.
LVA chief executive Donal O’Keeffe said the findings raised doubts over whether many pubs “can afford to reopen”.
“The findings will broadly apply across the sector and they are stark,” he said. “Seated capacity will drop to approximately one third of previous levels, while standing capacity can be divided by a factor of eight. Those are dramatic decreases and they will have extreme impact on turnover potential.”