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SOAPBOX – Drink Up: Provided You Are Vaccinated

by Jimmy Rhatigan

The fear is that we may be walking blindfolded into a nightmare.
The re-opening of pubs and restaurants on Monday next is a God-send for thousands of food and drink workers and owners who, in fairness, have been put through Hell and high water for circa 18 months.
Now begins the countdown to indoor elbow bending and fine dining.
A return to some sort of normality may be welcomed by battalions of diners and winers and indeed those who may opt for a porter or loose ale.
Having been caged for so long in a public battle with a monster called Covid-19 our people should now have an idea how performing lions and tigers may have felt in the heydays of travelling shows.
Whether or not tipplers and diners will storm local bars and eateries remains to be seen.
Some may opt to continue to hibernate, citing the mantra ‘look what happened last Christmas when the sluice gates of life were thrown open’.
Others, more than likely a great majority, may adapt an eat, drink and be merry attitude and the question to be asked is ‘who can blame them’ after so long under curfew.

We have no doubt that most owners and their staff will act responsibly and do their utmost to protect workers and customers.
That cases of the Delta variant that is deemed to travel at a far greater speed than any of its cousins that went before it, are rising rapidly should certainly be reason enough to tread gingerly.
For many, Monday will be an occasion of great joy; a new beginning maybe, while there will be some who simply may not believe the courageous motto of Who Dares Wins.
It seems NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) and Government politicians are at one, even if very cautiously so, on a great hurrah that could be likened to a mystery tour of yesteryear as families packed into coaches and didn’t have a clue where they were being brought.
That the finer points of the opening up again rules had not been finalized at the time of writing suggested that maybe there wasn’t a queue for the job of bus driver.

Or, more than likely it was Government doing what it does best, dithering, ducking and diving, cocking up and then blaming somebody else.
After what happened in similar circumstances as Yule celebrations were given priority, it is hard to have full confidence in either our public representatives or the so-called wise wonders of Irish medicine and science.
Our great trust must now rest with the publicans and restaurateurs and with hand on heart we believe that a sector that employs thousands of people and is the proud foundation stone of tourism in our country will do us proud.
Why are we so positive?
The food and drink industry that enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide, will know well that anything less than honours in this great examination of their ability, integrity and love affair with our people will not do them any favours.
The circumstances of the re-opening mean that going into their All-Ireland final they simply must bring home the bacon.

In what could amount to a game of Russian Roulette, the drink and food industry was not dealt a fair hand.
If the experiment works and everyone ends up safe and sound, it is those who made the decision to walk across a minefield who will take the plaudits.
But the real heroes should be the men and women of the industry, who similar to nurses and doctors in the frontline fighting the Covid Pandemic, will be in the public eye.
Dedicated workers, hoping to get back to paying their mortgages will be nder the microscope, feeding the hungry and maybe doing a Marriage Feast of Cana water to wine trick for an encore.
The truth is that pub and restaurant owners were thrown a giant bunch of keys and told that they could potter away provided they policed a rule that could prove divisive and indeed unconstitutional.
The doormen, those that pull the short straws, will have to ensure that vaccinated souls only are admitted.
Admitting those who show proof of vaccination won’t be the hard part.

But it may be dodgy and even dangerous to have to tell some people, the great ‘unclean’ maybe, good customers perhaps, that they can go home and throw a rasher and egg on the frying pan.
Of course, the latter words won’t be uttered but no matter how gently and mannerly the cruel message of negativity is delivered there will be hurt and perhaps anger.
In effect what the powers that be did was to give owners and their employees the dirty work and like dedicated politicians that they would want us to believe that they are, they headed off on holidays for the rest of the summer.
At a time when a pandemic continues to ravage countless families and thousands of others are living in fear that the Grim Reaper may call, our Government of FF, FG and Greens continues to treat our people with disdain and local businesses with disrespect.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated are being corralled in different pens as numbers of cases continue to grow in Ireland and the UK.

The great irony is that at least half of the new cases in the UK, many of them Irish, are made up of those who have already been vaccinated with single or double doses.
Similarly, there are vaccinated in our own communities who have been hit again.
One could be forgiven for believing that on both sides of the Irish Sea the next move in any attempt to beat Covid-19 involves picking a number between 1 and 10 and hoping to God that it brings good luck to campaigns that would fit well into a series of Only Fools and Horses.
We hope our people enjoy themselves in safe surrounds; that publicans and restaurant owners are rewarded for the hardship they have endured.
As for the politicians, perhaps they would consider joining billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson on a trip to outer space.
Preferably on one-way tickets.

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