The Government is to invest €17 million in upgrades for local authorities and businesses seeking to create “European-style” outdoor dining spaces.

Businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to €4,000 each to invest in outdoor seating and other amenities under the scheme.

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin will announce details of the scheme on Wednesday, which will also give grants worth up to €200,000 to local authorities for investment in weatherproofing and outdoor dining infrastructure.

The outdoor dining enhancement scheme will be run by Fáilte Ireland and local authorities around the country. Part one will be available to individual tourism and hospitality businesses including cafes, hotels, restaurants and attractions where food is sold for consumption on the premises.

It is one of several areas under Ms Martin’s brief that will reopen in the coming months, including the resumption of amateur and high level sports, and the planned reopening of zoos, outdoor attractions and heritage sites. Museums and galleries are to be considered for reopening in May, while a data-driven roadmap for the tourism sector is being worked on.

Local authorities will be able to apply for the larger sums under part two of the same scheme to upgrade streets and public spaces and implement weather-proofing solutions to facilitate year-round dining along the lines of those seen in European cities.

Permanent weatherproofing structures, including parasols, electric heaters and wind-protective screens will be eligible for funding.

Entertainment sector

Meanwhile, the arts and live entertainment sector is in danger of losing skilled workers because there is no roadmap for the sector’s recovery, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

Speakers from across the entertainment sector told the Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht that the industry needs to see a clear roadmap to reopening, linked to vaccinations.

Pre-event Covid-19 testing and vaccination passports were also suggested as a way of reopening the sector.

Liam FitzGerald of Epic, who represents workers in the live production sector, said many venues would be forced to close for good if no clear guidance was produced.

“For example, that when x per cent of adults are vaccinated, we can do such a scale of an event, and when y per cent are vaccinated, then the events can advance up to another level.”

Mr FitzGerald said skilled entertainment workers were already moving to other industries. “A specialist group of people, who would do a lot of climbing in high places and hanging structures in entertainment venues, a lot of them have gone to work in steel construction and building sites.”

Entertainment workers are also considering emigrating in the absence of certainty from the Irish Government, and many have already been offered jobs. “There is a terrible risk of skills retention becoming a major issue,” said Mr FitzGerald.

He also warned that despite Government supports such as the PUP and wage subsidy scheme, large parts of the sector were left behind, such as supplier SMEs.