John Cochrane in the outdoor dining area at The Greville Arms Hotel.

Hospitality businesses look ahead to new dining rules

As the sweltering sunshine saw diners swarm to the outside spaces at Mullingar eateries last week, the atmosphere disguised the fact that from this week outside dining will be the only option for many, even if the weather is grim.

What is being described as a “two-tier system” was agreed in the Dáil; it will bar those who are not vaccinated from indoor dining spaces – unless they are under 18 and dining with vaccinated members of their families.

Niamh Heneghan of the Gingerbread café in Blackhall reckons that the new system will bring its difficulties: “The legislation is confusing as far as I am concerned – and it is also a little bit unfair: people need to have the choice of whether to get a vaccine or not.”

Niamh’s view is that the legislation is as much as sending out the message that people are not allowed a choice: “It’s saying ‘we are going to alienate you from certain things’.”

However, she continued, she also understands that people need to stay safe and there is concern over the claims that the Delta variant is a particularly virulent strain.

“So in a way I am between minds.”

It is important, however, to restore the facility to dine inside to elderly diners who are vaccinated, Niamh says: “They have had enough rotten times; some may not have that much time left and they need to enjoy themselves.”

Niamh anticipates that there may be some complaining when indoor dining resumes and those who aren’t vaccinated are told it is not permitted.

“And I can understand where they are coming from. If I made the laws, I would not have made this one – but I also believe the government were pressured by people who needed to open up their businesses.”

About to enjoy the lunch just delivered by waitress Chloe Wallace to their table at Gingerbread caf?? on Friday, from left, Sharon Bollard, Rochfortbridge and Bernie Ginnell, Castletown Fineea Photo by Eilis Ryan

At The Greville Arms Hotel, dining indoors is currently taking place – for residents only. Under the rules, even residents who are not vaccinated can dine indoors, and enjoy a drink in the bar.

Manager John Cochrane is not envisaging any great difficulty when indoor dining for the wider public resumes: “We are lucky in The Greville Arms in that we have a very good back garden and great facilities there for people, so because of that we are in a position to cater for everybody. We have lots of room and it is semi-covered and there is heating in it if it is needed.”

John says customers have been completely co-operative during the restrictions and he is confident that will continue: “They have been very understanding: we have had no problems at all.”