A new report suggests that capacities in pubs and bar/restaurants will drop to as little as one eighth of pre Covid-19 crisis levels under the HSE social distancing guidelines.

The report, published by the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), was compiled by Knapton Consulting Engineers. 

It indicates that when HSE social distancing guidelines are applied in any 100 metre squared area in a licensed premises, standing capacity will diminish to 12.5% while seating capacity is reduced to 34% of pre-crisis levels.

Before the Covid-19 crisis, maximum occupancy in a licensed premises was calculated at a rate of two people per square metre for standing areas and one person per square metre for seated areas. 

This meant that in a pre-crisis context, a pub or bar/restaurant could accommodate up to 200 people standing or 100 people seating for every 100 square metres. 

But when the HSE social distancing guidelines are applied, the standing capacity per 100 square metres drops from 200 people to 25 people (12.5%), while the seated capacity in a bar or restaurant goes from 100 people to 34 (34%). 

Both the LVA and VFI said they will abide by the public health guidance issued by the Government, as they have done since the beginning of the current Covid-19 crisis.

But they noted that World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines involve a social distance requirement of one metre. 

Under WHO provisions, standing capacity would drop from 200 people to 100 (50%), while seated capacity in pubs and bar/ restaurants would decrease from 100 to 65 (65%), they added.

Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said it is only a matter of weeks away from pubs with restaurant certificates and other hospitality venues reopening. That is due to be followed six weeks later by the reopening of other pubs across the country.  

"While every pub and bar/ restaurant will have different layouts and configurations, the findings will broadly apply across the sector and they are stark," Mr O'Keeffe said. 

"Seated capacity will drop to approximately one third of previous levels, while standing capacity can be divided by a factor of eight. Those are dramatic decreases and they will have extreme impact on turnover potential," he said. 

"The WHO requirements will still significantly reduce capacity, but they will at least allow more pubs and other hospitality businesses to be capable of trading in the shorter term. But that is a decision for the Government and the public health officials," Mr O'Keefe added.

The VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said that from the perspective of commercial viability, the WHO guidelines obviously make much more sense for hospitality venues such as pubs. 

"While we have been calling for equality of opportunity to reopen for some time, the question still remains as how many pubs will actually be able to operate once the opportunity arises," he said. 

"That is a question that is still being asked by publicans across the country and we will certainly need further guidance on the reopening protocols in the near future to allow fully formed business decisions to be made in advance of any reopening," he added.