Gearoid Whelan is begging the Irish government to give pub owners a chance.
Gearoid Whelan, the owner of Whelan’s Pub in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, reopened his pub briefly on Monday, July 20 in defiance of Ireland’s current coronavirus restrictions. Whelan's decision to reopen comes after what he described as “farcical” treatment from the Irish government.
Under Ireland’s Roadmap to reopening society and the economy, pubs that do not serve food were supposed to open as part of Phase 4 from today, July 20. However, last week, the Irish government announced that Phase 4 was to be delayed until August 10.
Pubs in Ireland that serve food were permitted to reopen from June 29.
Coinciding with the delay in Phase 4 were reports that American tourists, who are still permitted to enter Ireland, were flouting the restrictions that order them to complete passenger locator forms and self-isolate for two weeks. The US is the worst-hit country in the world - as of Monday, there have been more than 3.7 million cases and more than 140,000 deaths in the country.
On July 14, Whelan wrote in a now-viral tweet that “enough is enough:”
250 people landing in this country on a daily basis from USA, an epicentre of Covid, and im being advised to keep my pub closed in west limerick, where we have had only a handful of cases in 4 months (thank god) , enough is enough, @MichealMartinTD— Gearoid Whelan (@whelansbar1) July 14, 2020
He said that if Ireland’s airports remain open to tourists, he will reopen his pub from July 20, adding that the treatment pub owners are being subject to is “farcical:”
If the Airports remain open i WILL b opening Whelans Bar on monday 20th july with or without government approval. As i said earlier its farcical the way we are being treated @MichealMartinTD @DonnellyStephen @simoncoveney— Gearoid Whelan (@whelansbar1) July 14, 2020
Whelan added a screengrab of coronavirus figures from the US, which is the worst-hit country in the world in terms of coronavirus.
On July 15, Whelan said that his pub would be open from 11 am on Monday:
We will b open at 11am monday morning??. Thanks for all the support. If a texan can come into Ireland and go where he likes our door is open to our customers who we have served for almost 70 years??. Family run and 100% safe environment. Looking forward to seeing our friends???— Gearoid Whelan (@whelansbar1) July 16, 2020
On July 18, Whelan shared a video from inside his pub that showed the social distancing measures put in place for customers. The publican told RTE that he spent more than €10,000 upgrading his premises with Covid-19 signage, sanitizer, sign-in forms, and temperature testing, as well as developing a large outdoor space for customers at the back of the premises.
Beer garden in Whelans all set for Monday?? pic.twitter.com/BA68DYlXp1— Gearoid Whelan (@whelansbar1) July 18, 2020
The day before he finally reopened, if only for briefly, Whelan said he is "refusing to keep my door closed when visitors can holiday from America:"
Almost 220,000 confirmed new covid cases in America in last 3 days yet our airports remain open to this epicentre and our businesses remain closed. Not anymore, im refusing to keep my door closed when visitors can holiday from America.— Gearoid Whelan (@whelansbar1) July 19, 2020
See you tomoro at 11??.
And then, finally, on July 20, Whelan shared a video of customers:
We are back?? pic.twitter.com/sOmfGcBKxE— Gearoid Whelan (@whelansbar1) July 20, 2020
Unfortunately for Whelan, the reopening was short-lived. He told The Irish Independent: “At one o’clock the gardai entered the premises and advised me to close under the Health Act 1947, so I’m complying with their advice and I’ve closed my doors.”
He added: “I don't agree with it, I still don't see (why). We are doing nothing wrong, there’s nothing illegal going on.”
“I’ve massive respect for the gardai and we wouldn't have a business without them, so, for the moment, I’m going to close my doors.”
Though only open for a few hours, Whelan’s welcomed nearly 50 customers, many of whom were locals who wanted to support Whelan and his business. “They’re all very delighted and very supportive of us to be able to open our door after four and half months," Whelan’s mother Pauline said.
Whelan said after the closing: “I’m disappointed, gutted, but all I wanted to show was that we can do this. Everyone that was here this morning saw we can offer a Covid-safe, socially distanced, enjoyable atmosphere, for a couple of pints — without your €9 pizza that’s going to keep you free from COVID.”
“Just give us a chance. Let us prove that we can do this, that’s all we ask.”