Phase three fails to raise the Temple Bar
Pubs are shut and the streets, ripped up by contractors, are devoid of human traffic
Barber Alan Kelly cuts Anthony Remedy’s hair as his dog, TeddyBear, looks on in the Regent Barber Shop, Temple Bar, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan
Any notions that the end of June would mark a return to business as usual for Dublin’s Temple Bar were dispelled by lunchtime on Monday when the city’s tourism magnet remained a shadow of its former self despite the country’s move into the third phase of the lockdown exit.
The 74-year-old’s day had started brightly as he took himself off to another bookies north of the Liffey with a betting slip dating back to St Patrick’s Day which promised him a return of €410 on a €150 bet.
“They told me they weren’t holding that much cash,” he said. “Can you believe that? I think it’s unbelievable.”
Despite the setback he was happy enough. “They’ll have my money tomorrow and I’m thrilled the bookies are open,” he said from behind his surgical mask. “The pubs will be next. Normally I go from here to the Palace next door. Then his voice trailed off. “It’s still closed though.”
He paused again. “The Oval on Abbey Street is open but I’m not paying €9 for food so I can have a pint. It’s bad enough paying the €5.50 for the pint, isn’t it?”
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The lobby of the Temple Bar Hotel was quiet and the staff, all wearing PPE on their first day at work in three months, busied themselves with cleaning and managing bookings.
The hotel’s operations manager, Patrick O’Sullivan, was upbeat after an early challenge which saw his staff struggling to come up for air. “We’d to get the face visors out,” he said. “We had masks on this morning but couldn’t really breathe so we got rid of them.”
Across the road there were helium balloons outside the Thunder Road cafe and the tables visible from the plate glass windows were occupied with diners downing pints. It was one of a handful of places where a crowd of sorts had congregated.
The bars around Temple Bar’s main square were locked and the cobbled streets have been ripped up by contractors. Meeting House Square was devoid of human traffic save for one mournful man who sat on a bench staring intently at the wall which hosts the big screen as if watching a captivating movie unfolding before his eyes.
In Dollard & Co manager Kevin Lysaght described the day as “a huge one” but, as he spoke, the restaurant floor where a handful of tables were accommodated due to social distancing, painted a picture of the challenges ahead for his sector.
It was busier outside the Ink Factory tattoo and piercing parlour on Wellington Quay. Rufina Harrison was waiting to be admitted. “I was supposed to be getting my ear pierced today with my daughter but she chickened out and went shopping with her friends,” she said.
“I’m still going through with it,” she continues. “I may as well now that I’m here. Like a lot of people I am desperate for a bit of normality.”
Freddie Ryan was desperate for normality. And a haircut. He was queuing outside the Regent Barber’s on Fownes Street. “I’d to come in because my daughter was threatening to cut my hair,” he said with a laugh.
When The Irish Times commented that his hair was looking pretty tidy after three months without so much as a passing flirtation with a scissors, he said he’d had a stroke of luck with the timing of his last cut.
“I got it cut just before the lockdown so I wasn’t really stuck. I got through the lockdown alright. I was one of the lucky ones.”