Scramble to get tables as bookings surge on return of outdoor dining



Restaurants and pubs resumed outdoor table service after a six-month Covid-19 shutdown, with €1m expected to be spent on food and drink every 20 minutes.

estaurant and gastro-pub owners have been the focus of a frantic scramble for bookings as families and couples are desperate to resume normal life.

Bookings for outdoor tables have now soared, with some Dublin, Cork and Galway bistros saying that outdoor seating is now booked for prime Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening slots right up until the end of August.

Local councils and Fáilte Ireland have helped fund the development of outdoor hospitality facilities nationwide but officials admitted that capacity will fall short of likely demand, particularly at weekends, until indoor dining resumes next month.

The reopening came after a grim 16 months for the industry.

By April 25, the decline of seated dining bookings compared to 2019 was at 99.75pc.

Many months of last year were spent in some form of lockdown.

Within 24 hours of the Government introducing social distancing recommendations in March 2020, restaurant bookings collapsed by 70pc.

Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) chief executive Adrian Cummins again hit out at the delay in the reopening of indoor dining.

Indoor service for bars and restaurants can only resume from July 5 – something Mr Cummins said was “unjust and discriminatory”, with only one in five outlets capable of outdoor dining operations.

“The decision is baffling and without proper reasoning on medical or scientific grounds from Government, we have no choice but to take this as discrimination of standalone restaurants, cafes and gastro-pubs,” he said.

Cork vintner Michael O’Donovan operates a so-called ‘wet’ pub with no outdoor service capacity.

“It has been a nightmare for us since March 14 last year – there is no other word for it,” he said.

“But we have to look to the future now and I know publicans like myself cannot wait until July 5 when the indoor trade is able to resume. Everyone must now ensure that we don’t have to close businesses again.”

For those restaurants with outdoor seating and service capacity, yesterday was a landmark moment.

Ireland will adopt a Continental feel for the summer, with Cork alone increasing the number of temporarily pedestrianised streets from six to 17 to help cafes, pubs, bistros and restaurants.

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