‘We can’t wait to open’: Three Cork publicans prepare to begin trade again

Pub-owners on the struggle of the past year and the hope for a return to normality

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn in Cork city. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision.

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn in Cork city. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision.

 

Pensioners who like to read the paper as they enjoy a few leisurely pints are the cohort most excited by the resumption of indoor service in pubs, according to a Cork city publican who has only traded for two weeks since March 2020.

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn, says his regulars have been phoning to check what time he is opening on Monday, with some saying they have not had a social outing since the start of the pandemic.

“We know all our regulars on a first-name basis. We have a man who comes in and has two or three pints on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He will read the paper but he will watch the world go by at the same time,” he said.

“He will chat when he wants to chat. He is in his late 70s and he wouldn’t have been out [socially] in 15 months.”

Mr O’Donovan said it has been a surreal time but was hopeful that better days were coming.

“We will adapt and get on with all the changes we have to make with how we do business,” he said. “It is difficult in that we never wanted to be asking people about their health status. We have to be cautious but it is another step in getting life back to the way we knew it.”

‘It has been a struggle’

Danny Collins was looking forward to reopening the Boston Bar in Bantry, west Cork after a year of many sleepless nights due to worries about keeping the business afloat.

“I have been going through my savings to pay the mortgage as we were only open for a couple of weeks last year,” the independent councillor said.

“It has been a struggle. Of course there were other bills as well. To have your pub cameras, you had to pay the internet bill. I was also advised to keep my cooler system running. In the winter, I had to put on the heating.”

Mr Collins said he was apprehensive about all the different regulations that will have to be complied with as indoor service returns, such as staffing all entrances, and that finding employees had been a struggle for those in the sector.

“I think the PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] should be reviewed at this point,” he said.

‘We can’t wait to open’

In Cork city, publican Ernest Cantillon will be opening Electric bar/restaurant and Sober Lane bar this week.

During the pandemic, he set up an online cocktail sales business and sold takeaway food, allowing him to keep a core team of about 15 people employed despite his business only opening as a traditional pub for a couple of weeks last year.

“We have also shifted to a new model of opening four evenings a week,” he said. “We are opening next Wednesday through Saturday and then staff will have three days off. That has been a key factor in staff retention and recruitment. We are going to give it a go. We can’t wait to open.”