Dundalk Town Centre Commercial Manager Martin McElligott believes the reopening of the town centre “cannot come fast enough” but that the new reality of limiting the amount of people allowed into shops will leave an “indelible mark” on local business for some time.
However, Mr McElligott admitted the absolute necessity of ongoing restrictions to contain and limit the spread of Covid-19.
Speaking to the Democrat, Mr McElligott said: “While we cannot deny the gravity of the health risks to everyone over the last number of months, there is no doubt that we will be counting the costs on other health issues that arise from the anxiety of many business owners all across Ireland right now.”
He added: “On the positive side , there is always winners and losers in situations like this, and I am happy to say I have seen many winners, but reopening Dundalk town centre cannot come fast enough, albeit in the safest manner possible.
“There will be many changes in how we do things and getting back to business will not be straight forward, as everyone comes to terms with the new reality of restricting the amount of people that can be in your store or restaurant at any one given time, this will leave an indelible mark on cashflows all across Dundalk, as they struggle with all the associated overheads.”
Understanding the full economic impact of the situation, could take some time admitted Mr McElligott.
“Indeed there are many questions in everybody’s mind regarding the damage caused to our local economy, however calculating that will be ongoing for some time. But my sincere hope is that many if not all of our town centre businesses will endeavour to reopen again, and we will do everything we can to help them. I love my job and I have made many friends in my role, and miss everybody, so if someone is just not able to get back to it I will be completely devastated.”
Still, he feels that Dundalk and its people are robust enough to overcome, prevail and eventually come right.
“I often ask myself how much more can the world throw at our town, but I’m sure everyone reading this will all agree with me when I say, Dundalk has a very unique way of standing up, dusting itself down, and starting all over again.
“I was always taught that when things go wrong, the quality of recovery is even more important that the quality of the actual delivery, and I believe we can recover from this. I have seen the huge local support for local business throughout this crisis and I will take this opportunity to thank everyone for spending the money locally, but more will need to be done and we need you to continue that support and where possible chose your local bricks and mortar store.
“In the words of my Grandmother Mary, ‘C’mon the Town’.”
The first phase in the gradual restarting of business in Dundalk’s town centre began in earnest on on Monday as the easing of Covid-19 restrictions kicked into gear.
A “hybrid system” between businesses on the streets can help manage queue lengths, Mr McElligott suggested.
“Where possible we would recommend that you have a maximum queue length for small shops and for some of the bigger shops and Banks that where possible and in agreement with Louth County Council, you could look at a hybrid system.”
Considerations for queuing should be thought through in advance by all reopening local businesses, he added, these include:
- Defined areas to indicate where pedestrians should stand when queuing, using temporary removable markings or temporary barriers.
- Management of multiple queues for different businesses through clear signing and the use of marshals as appropriate.
- “Do not join the queue” signs provided at popular destinations, when capacity reached.