Minister Peter Burke, Minister of State for Planning and Local Government has said he and his department are working on plans to make it as easy as possible for hospitality businesses to make the most of the summer.  It is understood that hospitality may be opened on a phased basis from June, beginning with outdoor and proceeding to indoor, conditional on public health advice.

Burke said that the Department and the Local Authorities will be ready to work with hospitality businesses to enable them to open as soon and as safely as possible.

“Restaurants, cafes, hotels and pubs have been knocked by this pandemic, but I am hopeful with the roll-out of the vaccine and the fall in cases, we can finally allow businesses to open and stay open for good.  I will be doing everything in my power as Minister for Local Government to aid businesses.  At present, officials are working on regulations which will see street furniture licenses granted with fees set to zero for 2021.

“We are also extending the regulations which came into place last year, which allowed all restaurants act as takeaways, without the need to apply for a license.  Both of these measures need to be passed by the Oireachtas but I am working to ensure this can happen by the end of April.

“Canopies and awning still require planning permission, but the Local Authorities will be working hard to ensure this process is managed as expediently as possible so as not to hinder outdoor dining once businesses are re-opened.

“These planning regulations will work hand in hand with the outdoor dining grants also available from the Local Authorities, where businesses can apply for a grant of up to €4,000 to cover outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas and electric heaters.

“There is also funding for County Councils to upgrade and enhance streets and public spaces and implement weather-proofing solutions which will facilitate year-round outdoor dining.  Each Local Authority can apply for up to €200,000 for a maximum of 2 locations and these schemes could have a transformative effect on the long-term viability and economies of our towns.

“While outdoor dining will not be suitable for all hospitality businesses, for those that it is, we will ensure we can maximise our capacity in Mullingar and beyond.  I am hopeful then as things progress, we can move to open indoor dining, hotels and B&Bs and our pubs again, which of course have been closed for the best part of 14 months.

“I know many businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and Government supports such as the wage subsidy, the CRSS, the PUP and other supports will not be cut before things begin to re-open.  As more of us are vaccinated, the evidence of the effect it has on our population is hugely promising and I am hopeful that things will continue to improve as we make our way through April and May”.