Reopening Ireland’s restaurants: ‘It will be disastrous if it doesn’t go ahead’

Restaurateurs are braced for further delays amid the rise of the Delta variant of Covid-19

Mark Fitzpatrick,  co-owner of Old Street Restaurant in Malahide, north Co Dublin: ‘We need to get back indoors to trade’

Mark Fitzpatrick, co-owner of Old Street Restaurant in Malahide, north Co Dublin: ‘We need to get back indoors to trade’

 

Unlike others in the restaurant trade, Nicola Curran-Zammit, owner of Two Cooks Restaurant in Sallins, Co Kildare has given up the ghost already on being able to reopen for indoor dining next month.

Instead, she is going to wait until at least September.

“We’ve already made that decision; we’re not waiting with bated breath to open in July because we opened and closed three times last year – Kildare had an extra lockdown.

“We’re not going to reopen this summer, even if things do go ahead. We’re going to hang tight and make sure it’s completely safe for staff, for customers and once we open we can stay open. The uncertainty is killer,” she declares.

“It’s unfair to bring people back and train people up then two weeks later they’re gone again. We have responsibilities for people’s livelihoods. It’s not so simple as opening and closing,” she says.

Covid-19 regulations have been challenging in their “quite small” restaurant: “We were practically shouting at each other through the masks and the customer can hear you. It was really awkward, I have to say. The masks just took something that’s really missing from the style of service that we do.”

Meanwhile, Paul Lenehan, owner of Hartes gastropub in Kildare town, the Dew Drop Inn in Kill, Co Kildare and Ashtons Gastropub in Clonskeagh, Dublin 14 faces a mixture of challenges since Hartes has no outdoor seating, the Dew Drop has limited options, while Ashtons can handle such trade.

“We’ve already done rosters for next week with chefs for menu preparation, clean-down, sample-testing new menus. Food will be ordered in the middle of next week. By Wednesday, it’ll be coming in for Friday and Saturday morning.

“If the announcement doesn’t come out till Thursday it will be disastrous if it doesn’t go ahead. We need to know by realistically at the latest Tuesday. You need a week,” he goes on.

‘Flat out’

Like others in the trade, he desperately wants to reopen.

“The rest of society is kind of getting back to normal. The hotels are open and they’re flat out serving away. It doesn’t make any sense why they’d have to call off the restaurants.

“It’s not fair. It completely goes against everything that we’re trying to do to get the industry back up and running,” adds Lenehan, who acknowledges that the Covid-19 Delta variant is “obviously quite contagious”.

“But the case numbers aren’t rising, the ICU number isn’t rising. So even though people are getting infected with this, the people that are vulnerable are already now vaccinated. So I don’t see what the issue is,” he goes on.

Darren Curran, a waiter at Déjà Vu Restaurant in Malahide, north Co Dublin: ‘I think two to three weeks’ notice would have been the perfect timeframe’
Darren Curran, a waiter at Déjà Vu Restaurant in Malahide, north Co Dublin: ‘I think two to three weeks’ notice would have been the perfect timeframe’

Meanwhile, Mark and Adriana Fitzpatrick, the co-owners of the Old Street Restaurant on Old Street in Malahide in North Dublin, believe the chances of indoor dining going ahead in early July now stand at 50/50.

“I think we are lucky that we do have outdoor dining facilities so we will be able to continue trading to some degree but, ideally and ultimately, we need to get back indoors to trade,” says Mark.

Convinced that there will be a delay, Adriana is grateful for the 38 diners they can handle outdoors, plus the 24 more places provided by Fingal County Council “have been an absolute godsend”.

Preparing

Meanwhile, Darren Curran, a waiter at the nearby Déjà Vu restaurant, is preparing for July 5th and trying not to worry about further delays.

“But obviously, it’s there in the back of your head and you’re thinking about it.”

Next week would be very late to be told by the Government that the July 5th reopening cannot go ahead, he says. “We still have to go and get everything done and do everything that we need to do at the end of the day but, yes, I do think it’s too short.

“I think two to three weeks’ notice would have been the perfect timeframe to get things in order, because then we have every precautionary measure we can have in place,” he goes on.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Wright of Wrights of Marino is impatient for July 5th, saying the third Covid-19 lockdown was the worst of all since many restaurants did not open for takeaway service after Christmas – usually their quietest time.

A tenth of outdoor bookings made one day this week was cancelled because of the weather. “So, literally, they’re looking at the sky every day and guessing. It’s not fair on the restaurants,” he declares.