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The new rules, which come into force from Tuesday, mean that bars, pubs and restaurants will now have to close at 10pm.
For bars especially, who rely on late-night customers, the limited hours will severely damage revenues already battered by the spring-into-summer shutdown.
Lee Lynch, managing director of Red Door, says the whole night time economy in the city is going to have to rethink its strategy to deal with the changes.
“We’re all going to have to think, how can we adapt what we do to make up for what we’re losing?” he explained.
“Red Door normally opens at 5pm, but a five-hour window is no use for us, it just isn’t worthwhile. We do most of our business and bring in the majority of our revenue between midnight and 4am so obviously now that’s gone.
“We’ve had to react quickly to these new restrictions and change what we do so we’re going to be moving everything into more of an afternoon setting.
“Since July 4, when we reopened, we’ve been trading Thursday to Sunday from 5pm to 4am. Now we’ll be opening at midday and we’ll be booking tables in sittings to allow us to sanitise the building in between and make sure everything is thoroughly cleaned.
“We’ll keep 12 to 2pm for walk-ins so people can just come along and have a drink, then there’ll be bookable sittings from 2pm to 4pm, 4.30-6.30pm and the last one at 7-10pm.”
Lee says Red Door had already been badly hit by the Rule of Six. “We’ve got Eden rooftop bar so we could have bookings there for up to 30 people but that stopped with the six-person rule. We had birthday parties of 12, 15, up to 30 booked for the terrace so we’ve lost a lot of money because people have cancelled.”
The hospitality industry in the city has, he says, been doing its best to stick to the rules since reopening in July.
“We have to, it’s all about compliance – we want to be able to trade and keep our businesses going but we want to be able to do it safely as well. Nobody wants to be the cause of another outbreak so we’ve always taken every restriction very seriously.
“But you see on the news there’s a lot of people having illegal raves and big gatherings and they’re quite blasé about it. What they don’t understand is that it’s things like that which have forced the lockdown measures now and ultimately they’ll make businesses like ours disappear.”
Lee says he remains optimistic, but it’s a struggle.
“It’s all been a bit of a storm, and because Red Door is known as a party place, we just don’t know whether we can sustain that through the afternoons. Hopefully we might see a shift of guests moving to the afternoons and if the weather is kind to us for the next few weeks, we’ll be able to manage.”
Matt Farrell, co-founder of Graffiti Spirits Group which owns venues including Duke Street Market, Santa Maluco and Santa Chupitos, said the new restrictions were understandable given the rise in cases but a lack of planning from the government had been unhelpful.
“The public have just started getting comfortable dining and drinking out and it was gathering momentum,” he added, “so for this to happen, it’s obviously a setback for the industry. I’m wondering why the restrictions are 10pm onwards? If the aim isn’t to stop people from going to restaurants, 10.30/11pm would be much better as if you’re taking bookings for 8 or 9pm, they’ll need to be out by 10pm and so it will definitely deter people from coming out later in the evening where most restaurants see the majority of their takings. It could be very damaging and for the bars it will be catastrophic, and almost puts them back to square one in lockdown with no hope of even opening this year.”
He said the option of delivery, which had sustained many businesses through shutdown, might not be an option again.
“I think it’s a more difficult scenario this time around because the nights are going to draw in earlier.
“I think that the message of solidarity and supporting each other is essential right now. It’s all one ecosystem and I’d urge guests to really support where possible as it’ll be a case of ‘use it or lose it’ in many circumstances. Restaurants will still be open, sittings will just be slightly earlier so if you feel confident and you’re well, please support your local independents.”
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