Spare a thought for bar-restaurant staff up and down the country, currently spending half their working days explaining that they are not legislators, virologists, or epidemiologists, and then listening to endless grousing from barstool constitutional lawyers.
No, of course a substantial meal doesn’t in itself protect you from getting Covid-19.
No, of course you cannot buy one substantial meal and four pints for you and your three pals.
No, of course the person behind the bar is not responsible for government guidelines, so stop asking for “a sneaky pint”, and stop giving bar staff a hard time with your hilarious attempts to get around Covid-19 restrictions.
Bar staff are, for the most part, not very well-paid, and they put up with more than most people are reasonably expected to put up with in their daily work.
If a barperson working in a bar-restaurant breaks the law and their employers are prosecuted, or the licence-holder finds that the renewal of their licence is jeopardised thanks to the barperson breaking the law, then regardless of whether that barperson acted with or without their employer’s knowledge, there is an excellent chance the barperson will be fired. That’s just the way things are.
Anyway, look, it’s really simple. If you want a pint in a bar-restaurant in Ireland at the moment, then under current Covid-19 restrictions you have to buy a substantial meal valued at no less than €9. And by the way, that €9 price-tag dates back to Michael McDowell’s café-bars and is out of date by a decade or more, so really you probably should be paying at least €15.
Now, if you’re a dunderheaded bore full up with your own belly-bursting sense of self-importance, you might think your arguments about why this is “all wrong” are novel, insightful or even ground-breaking, but frankly the person behind the bar has heard every variation on this theme a hundred times or more, and they’ve often heard it a hundred times or more over the past hour.
“Can I pay €4.50 for a sandwich and have a half pint?”
“Can I have a dinner and get a pint for my pal Tommy because I’m off the sauce?”
“Can I have a pint today and I’ll pay for me dinner as well but I won’t ate it till tomorrow, and can I have a pint with it then tomorrow too like?”
Paddy never met a rule he couldn’t see seven ways around, but this is about more than a bloody-minded restriction put in place just to frustrate poor auld Paddy and to come between him or her and the multiple pints which are of course our sacred birthright.
You’re absolutely correct, by the way. Having a substantial meal won’t make you immune to Covid-19. But if you have a brain in your head, you already know that.
Having a substantial meal won’t slow down Covid-19, but physical distancing and hand hygiene will. Paying €9 for a meal won’t slow down Covid-19, but table service and contact tracing and sanitising bar furniture will. Staying in the pub for no more than an hour-and-three-quarters won’t slow down Covid-19, but not getting hammered drunk and not hugging people and not roaring ráiméis in their faces will.
All of that said, it was hard not to sympathise with Co Limerick publican Gearoid Whelan, whose attempt to open his Newcastle West pub on Monday morning was shut down by the Gardai by lunchtime. Having spent €10,000 to upgrade his family pub, he said he was “absolutely gutted” that the Government has paused Phase Four of the Lockdown easing roadmap, and felt that he simply “had to make a stand” and prove that his pub could operate within social distancing guidelines without serving food. He now says he will consider his next move.
To tell the truth, your heart would go out to all the publicans who had hoped to reopen this week, and we all know that some small pubs will probably never re-open now, which will be a terrible loss to our communities, but with the R number – the reproductive rate of the virus – climbing so alarmingly in recent days, it’s hard to see what other choice the Government had but to hold off until August.
It’s also worth noting that acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan McGlynn, has this week refused to rule out a return to Phase Two of Lockdown easing, so in other words if this gets worse, we could lose not just the pubs, but the bar-restaurants too. Now, we could also lose a whole bunch of people into the bargain, but given the carry-on of some people arguing the toss about substantial meals, let’s keep our priorities straight.
At the end of the day, this isn’t really all that complicated. The person behind the bar isn’t a legislator, a virologist, or an epidemiologist, and they’re really not interested in why you think you shouldn’t have to play by the rules.
We’re all doing our best to try to slow this thing down, and we all want to help save lives.
If you don’t want to pay €9 for a substantial meal, then don’t expect a pint, and stop hassling people who aren’t paid nearly enough to be putting up with your bullshit.
Now, are you having a meal and a pint or not?