Covid-19

Dundalk publican: ‘We have to roll with the punches’ to survive level 5 restrictions

Local businesses

Michelle O’Keeffe

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Michelle O’Keeffe

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Dundalk publican: ‘We have to roll with the punches’ to survive level 5 restrictions

A local publican who worked hard to keep her family run business going serving 15 customers outdoors under Level 3 restrictions has spoken about how difficult it is to be hit with another lockdown.

Michelle MacGuinness, the manager of The Market Bar on Clanbrassil Street, said they renovated the Back Alley to facilitate customers al fresco, but it only up and running for two weekends before it was forced to shut.

Michelle told how the word was only getting out about their outdoor space – which they opened recently along with serving takeaway cocktails and tapas from the front of their premises – when they were forced to close it under Level 5 restrictions.

The manager of the popular bar said they are determined to “roll with the punches” and adapt to the current pandemic crisis to keep their business running and are continuing to serve their takeaway tipples and tasty food in the current lockdown.

Michelle said: “It is very tough to be closed again.

“There is very little money coming in, but we are still spending money to facilitate the Covid-19 restriction guidelines.

“Then when we meet them and have all the safety measures in place, we are hit again by further restrictions

“We did work on our outdoor space the Back Alley to facilitate outdoor service for 15 customers, which we had up and running for just two weekends and then we were hit with the lockdown and had to stop it.

“Word was only starting to get our about it and now it is closed.

“Our earning power just keeps getting slashed.

“We are a family run business and things are getting tighter and tougher, it is stressful.

“We are now back to what we were doing in the last lockdown, which is takeaway cocktails and pints on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and also on Sundays on Bank Holiday weekends – along with our tapas.

“It is hard to keep motivated and positive as you can feel like there is no end to it, once you get something up and running more restrictions are introduced.

“But we have no choice but to roll with the punches and be proactive as the only other option is shutting up shop.

“We are all in this together and working hard to keep things going as best as we can.

“We have to stay positive and come up with ideas that help us adjust to a suitable business model in this current climate.”

Michelle said that the family-run business still has the same expenses going out but little coming in.

“Because we serve food, we were able to open when restrictions were previously eased by serving a €9 meal.

“The capacity of customers allowed in the bar was down due to Covid-19 safety measures, but we still needed the same amount of staff.

“Our capacity was down 50 per cent which meant our profit was down 50 per cent, but we still have to pay our rent, rates, wages and other bills.

“We only opened on our busiest days, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as it wasn’t financially viable to open the other days.

“And when we opened the Back Alley for 15 customers under Level 3 restrictions it was only at weekends, along with our takeaway cocktails, pints and tapas.

“We have also reduced our food menu, all the favourites are still on it, but we needed to reduce preparation time and ensure stock wasn’t wasted so we made it smaller.

“Now we are back in lockdown we will just be serving our takeaway cocktails, pints and food.

“We are doing our best to give our staff as much work as we can.

“When we were doing work on the Back Alley everyone chipped in painting and building things.

“We are very aware of the mental health of everybody during these stressful times and keep in touch with all our staff.

“We are all in this together doing the best we can.”

And there was more bad news for pubs and restaurants last week after the Government confirmed they will not be able to trade as normal once the six-week lockdown is over.

The hospitality sector is set to miss out on their busiest time of year in the run up to Christmas as the country will remain at least level 3 until the New Year.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said last week that bars and restaurants will remain at level 3 until the end of year and, therefore, will not be able to re-open fully in time for Christmas.

Mr Donohoe said that even if the country moves to Level 3 before Christmas, it will still create many challenges for the hospitality sector.