Indoor dining reopened in Ireland on Monday for the first time since December last year, with some "wet pubs" reopening for the first time since March 2020.
People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or who have recovered from the virus within the last six months can now dine indoors, while unvaccinated children will also be permitted to dine indoors with an accompanying adult, according to the Irish government's latest restrictions.
More than 3,000 pubs reopened on Monday, with more than 25,000 staff signing off of Ireland's pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).
Under last-minute changes to Ireland's COVID-19 restrictions, contact tracing is now only required for the lead person at a table or solo diners, while a requirement calling for designated tables has also been removed.
The last-minute changes mean that restaurants and pubs are no longer required to keep a record of what table a party sat at, Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said on Monday.
Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) chief executive Padraig Cribben welcomed the last-minute changes, stating that contact tracing would have discouraged people from dining indoors.
"We made it clear to officials that the contact tracing issue would slow down the admittance and be counterproductive from a public health perspective and the designated table proposal would be largely unworkable," Cribben told the Irish Times.
He said that the reopening of indoor dining was a "day of relief" for pubs across the country but said that there was also anxiety and challenges surrounding the Government's guidelines.
Cribben said that bar staff around the country were concerned about people who refuse to wear masks, with some anti-mask advocates claiming on social media that they intend to "cause problems" for the hospitality industry.
Cribben additionally said that many businesses have been closed for the last 16 months and will need time to come to terms with the Government's requirements, meaning that reopening may be staggered over the coming days and weeks. He urged people to work with publicans and observe public health regulations.
Meanwhile, VFI President Paul Moynihan said that it was "only fair" that pubs with no outdoor space could reopen.
"The reopening of indoor hospitality marks the end of an extremely challenging 16-month period that began on 15 March 2020," Moynihan told RTÉ.
"It's only fair that pubs with no outdoor space are allowed reopen. While outdoor trading has been a success for some publicans, reopening indoors gives businesses a chance to make ends meet."
Pub owners and restaurateurs have reported a steady flow of foot traffic since indoor dining reopened on Monday morning.
Cól Campbell, the managing director of Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street, told RTÉ that he had no seen a "tsunami of people" on Monday but said it was nice to see people stop by for a coffee.
However, some businesses will not reopen on Monday due to a shortage of hospitality staff.
Adrian Cummins said that the Irish restaurant industry has lost roughly 30% of its staff since the outbreak of the pandemic and that it is "standing still" with the remaining 70%.
Many restaurants and pubs around the country have reportedly found it difficult to rehire staff ahead of Monday, while some establishments have refused to reopen because many of their staff are young and unvaccinated.
Cummins urged the Government to sit down with the restaurant industry and "fast track a solution for restaffing the sector". He suggested incentive schemes as a means for getting former hospitality staff back into the workforce.