'I don't sleep in a big rain'
When severe flooding struck last June, bar owner Peter Collins was tucked up asleep. Water had never previously reached the area of the main street in the Cork suburb of Douglas where Barry’s bar is located. At 2.45am on June 28th, however, a neighbour phoned and told him he needed to get down to his bar as water was beginning to get in. A garda and Collins tried in vain to prevent the water from entering the ground floor.
By the time Collins returned to the scene with sandbags, the bar he had owned and had run for almost 20 years was completely flooded. “It was devastating,” he says. “There were 500,000 gallons of water outside the door. I didn’t realise it is not so much the water that damages, it is the sewage and contaminated water.”
Glanmire, Blackpool and Ballyvolane in Cork city and Clonakilty in west Cork were hit particularly hard when up to 50mm of rain fell on June 27th- 28th. Damage cost about €100 million. Early warning and defence systems appeared not to work; many businesses, including Barry’s bar, had to close their doors for several months.
“Some staff were on social welfare for four months and most have kids,” says Collins. “The attitude of the workers has been fantastic and they’ve come back with a buzz. The well-wishing of the community resonates with everyone. We opened just before the October bank holiday and locals were saying, ‘I missed you serving me my pint’. That sentiment might have been there before, but it was never expressed.”
“The flood forced us to rethink how we wanted the bar to look. The last time we renovated was in 2003 and the punter of today is looking to have a beer and maybe a burger in a more comfortable place.” Collins also installed a flood defence barrier outside the door.
There was some concern that existing crash barriers may need to be re-examined, while some locals felt that the real problem lay with the way the town has developed in recent years.
Collins was lucky that his insurer covered renovation costs. “Local council workers are more active now when there is a big rainfall, and there is a text alert sent to all business owners. Despite that, I have to admit I don’t sleep now when there is a big rain.”