Irish pubs open after virus closure but Dublin stays dry

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Bray (Ireland) (AFP)

Irish pubs reopened after a six-month shutdown on Monday but many in the capital Dublin remained under heightened coronavirus restrictions because of a surge of infections.

In the Boomerang Bar in Bray, County Wicklow, south of Dublin, customers returned in droves by lunchtime to end a half-year dry spell.

“Some people have actually taken the day off work,” said Sandie Stanley, who owns and runs the pub with husband Derek.

“They’ve planned to be here to celebrate with us on our first day reopening, which is really, really lovely,” she told AFP.

Inside, around 30 customers sipped pints at tables topped with bottles of hand sanitiser.

Staff served in face visors and blue polo shirts backed with the motto “physically distancing, socially connecting”.

Bray is an upmarket coastal commuter town on the County Dublin boundary and Stanley said eager Dubliners have been in contact, willing to commute for a round of drinks.

“We’re fully booked this evening,” she added.

– Dry spell –

All of Ireland’s 7,000 pubs were shut by government order on March 16 — the eve of the national St Patrick’s Day celebrations — as the country was locked down.

On June 29, those serving food were permitted to reopen but so-called “wet pubs” providing drinks only stayed shut.

Last week, the government confirmed that while all pubs nationwide were permitted to open on Monday, Dublin’s drinking-only establishments would remain shuttered.

On the streets of Dublin’s Temple Bar area — a popular haunt packed with pubs — cleaning crews found little evidence of weekend revelry to sanitise.

Some bars have been boarded up for months, their plyboard coverings now marked with graffiti.

Others bear social distancing signage, indicating they managed to open for business before the latest tightening of restrictions.

Dublin is facing tougher controls than the rest of Ireland because of an increase in new infections.

Prime minister Micheal Martin ordered Dubliners not to cross county lines, except for “work, education and other essential purposes”.

Indoor gatherings were also banned and household visits limited.

“Despite people’s best efforts over recent weeks, we are in a very dangerous place,” he said in a national televised address last week.

“There’s a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis.”

– Ripple effect –

Under the new measures, which are in place for three weeks, only pubs hosting outdoor diners or selling takeaway food are permitted to serve the 1.3 million residents of Dublin city and county.

Willie Aherne, the owner and manager of The Palace Bar, will try to scrape by on the new government terms by having up to 15 customers on his terrace.

Three other publicans he knows are not so lucky and are “pulling out their hair” after being shut down, he said.

“It’s the ripple effect of this,” he explained. “It’s the butcher that delivers the meat, the fruit and veg man, it’s the knock-on effect.”

A total of 1,792 people have died in Ireland’s coronavirus outbreak, according to latest department of health figures.

Daily deaths peaked at 77 in mid-April and have remained in single digits in recent weeks however the nation is witnessing a resurgence in new infections.

Health service data on Saturday showed Dublin’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people at roughly double the nationwide figure.