RURAL pubs across the county are preparing for another “body blow” as growing suspicion mounts as to whether or not Stormont will give the green light for wet-only pubs to reopen next Monday.
Publicans remain dubious after Stormont’s “quick change of plan” for pubs to reopen back in July had been swayed after the South put breaks on wet-only pubs opening across the border.
With concerns that the South’s “unlikely” decision to reopen pubs might once again ‘sway’ Stormont thinking, Bundoran Councillor Michael McMahon, has urged for “all pubs to reopen at once, to safeguard cross-border businesses.”
He explained, “I will be hoping that by next week, our wet-only pubs both North and South will be opened. I do believe the entire thing has been extremely unfair and surely it can only be a good thing as it will take the pressure off other businesses.
“I think that if you open one then you should open them all. We all only live a couple of miles from the border and we depend on six-county-trade more than ever before.”
Mr McMahon added, “I was listening recently to a statement that was issued by the World Health Organisation and it stated that the this virus will be here for a long time.
“We must get into the mindset of regulating things in the best way possible and wet-only pubs should be given the opportunity to thrive in what we now call the new normal and not be left in the dark.”
“We take the Fermanagh and Donegal border very seriously, there’s people living right on the edge in places like Belleek and right round to Kiltyclogher. We need to be communicating together on an All-Ireland basis in order for businesses to survive.”
With growing pessimism as to whether Stormont will allow wet-only pubs to reopen on August 10th, publicans across Fermanagh warn that any further delay would come as a “final nail in the coffin” for rural pubs altogether.
With no further guidance from Stormont as to when or if rural pubs will reopen again, one local publican spoke to the Herald over his frustrations at being left in the dark.
“This Saturday will mark a total of 20 weeks that wet-only pubs have been closed to the public,” he explained.
“How is any business meant to survive after being closed for that amount of time? It has been months since we have received any government support.
“Businesses are back paying mortgages that got three months of payment holidays, rents are still needing to be paid and that alone is enough to start eating up any grants that were even able to help businesses.”
He added, “How can we plan an order this week if we may be closed again next week? Allowing just a few days to get stock in and get a business ready to open is just outrageous.
“We could order kegs and stock in to then be told that we can’t open and what do we do then? Sit on it and hope that we are open before it goes out of date once again?
“It’s all an utter joke, we have been abandoned. The current spikes in Covid just shows that it’s house parties causing them as most pubs will respect the guidelines and help keep things safe.
“Politicians are not thinking about the mental health of rural pub owners who don’t have the space to offer food or outside drinking areas.
“Owners are close to facing not just the loss of their business but also their family homes.”