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Birmingham’s Irish pubs struggle with Covid-19 measures

By Annie Driver

Irish pubs and bars in the city of Birmingham are keeping their doors open in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. Boris Johnson made an announcement on Monday advising people to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and non-essential travel. This will have damaging effects on the thriving night-time economy across Birmingham which includes many Irish owned venues across the city.

The oldest pub in Birmingham, The Old Crown emphasised their disappointment and disillusionment in the Prime Ministers actions:

“We’re all a bit stumped, the Prime Minister has told you all to stay away from bars, clubs, pubs and theatres, but hasn’t forced closure.

“We will evidently see less of you coming to visit us. So, like many of our hospitality and industry friends, we’re really struggling here.

“We don’t know what’s best to do right now. The future of The Old Crown, our staff and our suppliers is uncertain.”

Similarly, newly established neighbouring Irish bar Norton’s also emphasised their feelings towards the government’s position.  The owner, Peter Connolly, announced the cancellation of the annual St. Patrick’s Parade at the weekend, but he is not prepared to close his bar just yet: “Despite the pathetic non-response from our PM, the ambiguous statements from government telling customers to stay away but telling us to stay open, after careful consideration and discussion with our fantastic staff, we are staying open”.

“I don’t know how much quieter the pub will be this week or whether we’ll even make it to the weekend. But we’ve been open for 3 months and already it feels the team at Norton’s and our customers are a family. We’ve struggled as every start up business does, but our neighbours in Digbeth, friends and family have been fantastic.”

An even stronger sentiment is felt by Hennessy’s Bar: “Boris Johnson’s deliberately vague announcement seems to mitigate financial liability, to avoid paying small businesses and millions of hospitality workers compensation for closure. However, we still have staff who rely on their wages.”

Other pubs such as D. J. Quinn’s at the heart of the local community are also sorely feeling the consequences of the outbreak.  Dom Molloy, who also owns The Castle and Falcon in Kings Heath, has not yet closed his venues and is waiting on more guidance from the government.

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He told the Irish World: “We are waiting to see what happens.  It is difficult in the sense the government are telling us not to go into pubs but not closing us but it is not a viable option to stay open.

“It is a shame as lot of older people who have retired come in and have a couple of pints a week. It’s the only social interaction they have. The older lads come out on match days to watch their local GAA team.”

While pubs have not yet been forced to close, the choice may soon be taken out of their hands with new measures being introduced daily in response to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

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