The Restaurants Association of Ireland is urging the Government to permit indoor dining in restaurants as the country exits Level 5 restrictions for the reopening of the economy and society in December.

The association said that December is a vital month for the industry and accounted for over 30% of annual income in previous years.

This income is used as a cash flow to stabilise restaurants in January and February of any normal trading year. 

"With 11 days to the lifting of Level 5 restrictions it is vital for the economic survival of our sector that the Government allow indoor dining," Adrian Cummins, the CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said.

Adrian Cummins said that restaurants do not make public health policy but have consistently followed it throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He said the evidence shows that restaurants are safe, controlled environments. 

The Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HSPC) reporting of outbreak sources since March showed that there were 39 cases (0.4%) in restaurants and cafés out of a total of 8,311 cases, he added.

"Based on economic analysis produced by economist Jim Power, if restaurants do not open this December the exchequer and by default the Irish taxpayer will lose €250m," Mr Cummins added.

The President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Mark McGowan, said that at this time of year restaurants would be purchasing; turkeys and hams, vegetables from local producers and all the trimmings to serve to customers and their families.

"Restaurant owners do not know what to tell their staff, they do not know what to tell their suppliers," he added.

Meanwhile, hotel and guesthouse owners have expressed their deep concern at reports that the Government is considering introducing a number of different grades of Covid-19 restrictions across December.

Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation, said that such an approach would lead to confusion and uncertainty which is counterproductive.

"Public health is the number one priority, and we understand the difficult challenges and choices facing Government in reopening society in a safe way following the easing of restrictions on December 1st.

"However, introducing a host of different restriction levels over such a short period of time is not the answer.  The danger is that too many restrictions will cause confusion amongst the public, and they won't achieve the full buy-in of the very people they are trying to reach, and heighten, rather than minimise the risk," he said.

Hoteliers are calling on the Government for clarity on the restrictions and at least seven days’ notice prior to their introduction.

They are also urging the Government to allow people to travel outside their county and to permit in-door dining in hotels, including for non-residents, as part of its reduced restrictions for reopening society safely this December.

Mr Fenn said these measures would ensure hotels can reopen in a safe and sustainable manner, while helping to provide safe, controlled environments for people during the festive season this year.

"By allowing indoor dining, including for non-residents, the Government can provide a safer option this year. The controlled environment of hotels can help to minimise the number and extent of social gatherings in home settings, thereby significantly reducing the risk this Christmas," he said.