Irish bars to check passports of St Patrick's Day partygoers

By Harry Lock of RNZ

Irish bars around Wellington say they're cracking on with St Patrick's Day events as planned for Tuesday afternoon, but not without taking extra precautions.

Checking arrival dates on customers' passports, equipping staff with hand-sanitiser, and wiping down the curtains are just some of the lengths the bars are going to, to stay clean.

While pubs in Ireland have been ordered to close down their tills and shut up shop ahead of St Patrick's Day - in Wellington, there's no such orders. The Irish bars across town are still very much open for business.

Dermot Murphy owns two of them, both called D4 - a reference to the Dublin district.

"We've got to keep selling to keep the business open, and until the government comes out and says, 'Right, everything's on lockdown', we've got to continue with business, but just be a bit more sensible with things."

They are making changes to how they do things - taking extra precautions, making sure the bar - and the staff - are that much cleaner.

The manager of JJ Murphy's on Cuba Street, Blake Hackenberg, said they'll have a bouncer at the door holding a bottle of hand-sanitiser.

Not only that, for international travellers, the bouncer will be checking passports and looking for the immigration stamp.

If that person arrived after Monday, when all travellers were told to go into self-isolation, they'll be told to go right back to their accommodation.

Continue to live, work and play

Murphy said at D4, they're working hard to keep the place as clean as possible.

"All the staff now have their own little sanitiser in their apron. One of the staff has a job of just going around, and just wiping the likes of the handrail coming up the stairs, and the cords for the blinds.

"All of the little stuff you wouldn't even think of, but we're ticking them boxes now."

They're following a checklist sent out to all bars and restaurants from Hospitality New Zealand - which identifies specific areas to clean.

The head, Julie White, said it's part of a wider toolkit designed to help the industry cope.

"This is to help them realise the significance of this happening. Covid-19 is unprecedented.

"It's really imperative that our members get ready for this financially, but also for the safety of their staff and guests."

Three bands will be playing at D4 from this afternoon into the evening.

The bar can only accommodate 150 people max, so Dermot Murphy said the new rules imposed on mass gatherings isn't such a problem for them.

But there will still be a number of people within a confined space - he said he's still hoping people keen to celebrate St Paddy's with a pint of guinness will be responsible.

"You'd like to think that everyone coming in, are being as prudent as possible themselves," said Murphy.

"You know you're own body. You know if you've been overseas, or you've been in touch with people from overseas."

The events over the past months mustn't deter people, Hospitality NZ's Julie White said.

"We should be mindful, but continue to live work and play as we have done prior to Covid-19. So please continue supporting the local."