With the restrictions on lockdown easing up, the government has allowed for pubs and restaurants to re-open with a detailed set of rules outlined by the HSE. Some of them include signage and floor markings in order to maintain physical distancing of two metres between tables as well as one metre between customers seated at tables. In ‘controlled’ environments where all other pre-requisites are met, tables can be set one meter apart.

“I’ve been to a café that only does takeaway now and they had socially distanced queues as well as hand sanitizers by the door,” said Sara Abdulmajid, an incoming UCD masters student who runs @foodblogdublin on Instagram, “however I think it’s a change that restaurants have had to adapt to that would surely change the experience of dining out for the future.”

The successful blogger added, “I think it’s created an opportunity for a lot of restaurants to come up with creative ways for people to order,  like barcode scanners for menus so customers don’t have to touch a physical menu, as well as ordering in an app instead of going up to a counter or having a waiter take your order”. Crowd favourites such as Nandos are already using QR code scanners for their customers to order via digital menus as well as virtual queuing systems.

Advance bookings for tables have been made essential with a time slot of up to 1 hour and 45 minutes, which means no more sitting at your local Starbucks and taking advantage of that free WiFi to finish all your assignments. Places like Slattery’s and TGIF have already implemented these regulations with every other restaurant doing the same. However, this and a 15 minutes gap between the bookings for cleaning and sanitising, essentially means that you would have to book days in advance if you want to go on that date or plan your birthday dinner at your favourite restaurant.

Opentable.ie is a great source to find great restaurants like Captain America’s, Wagamama and Opium and book your tables in advance. One of the few gaming arcades and eateries that have re-opened is Token. They have a limited seating capacity, with two to four persons per table. Only a selection of free games will be open as the use of actual tokens has been ceased. They have also been able to provide PPE to all customers as part of their package.

The government’s ‘single use rather than shared condiments should be provided’ policy means you probably won’t be able to enjoy that assortment of pickles at your favourite Indian restaurant. Most fast food joints have not stated when they will be reopening seating but take-outs like McDonald’s have put in place protective barriers at order stations with most places continuing to do the same.

Phase 4, which is scheduled to begin on the 20th of July, allows for places like nightclubs and cinemas to reopen and leaves us all wondering how we’re supposed to perform all the tik-tok dances and songs we’ve been (not so) secretly learning during lockdown while social distancing on the dance floor. The iconic Copper Face Jacks nightclub has confirmed that they would only be reopening next year as it would be ‘impossible’ to socially distance as the absolute opposite happens inside.

With increased Garda presence and the introduction of social distancing wardens, as a result of lack of social distancing amongst massive crowds in Temple Bar, it would be hard to imagine what it would be like for nightclubs. It is likely that we will see the implementation of ‘social distancing wardens’ in nightclubs as well. Dublin councillor Joanna Tuffy has stated in Dublin Live that these wardens “would have limited powers so that they could actually have powers to disperse large groups of people in streets and ask people to maintain social distancing”.

Places like The Academy and Whelan’s have all postponed their live gigs until 2021. A group representing night-time businesses in Ireland, Give Us The Night has stated that it would not be possible for nightclubs to run profitably with social distancing measures in place.

According to the Irish Mirror, Ireland’s reopening of nightclubs will mostly follow precautions like those of Spain and the Netherlands that have already opened their nightclubs. Some of the restrictions being implemented elsewhere include a ‘no dancing’ rule in clubs in Spain and small circles drawn on the dancefloor in the Netherlands for people to socially distance.

We are yet to see what rules the HSE will set in place for Phase 4.  As we have already seen with cinemas such as Odeon and Omniplex, the biggest challenge they faced was reducing their capacity by at least 70%. Likewise, there is no doubt that the entrance capacity for nightclubs will drastically reduce which means that even in September as most students return to college it is unlikely that we would be able to party our way through fresher’s week.

With pints over zoom being the new normal it is likely that the norm will continue well into the next year, especially for those free society night outs. Nightclubs and pubs will both be reducing their capacity, meaning societies on campus may not be able to host their after-parties in large groups at nightclubs, pubs and even restaurants. However, this does pave the way for them to create new events online to contribute to the college social scene or whatever’s left of it.

Nikita Fernes – Reporter