Opening Time: Outdoor dining returns from Monday!

Pubs and restaurants across the county are preparing to reopen to outdoor dining next Monday as part of the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

While business owners are pleased to be welcoming customers back once more, concerns have been raised over issues such as recruitment and added costs.

Some business owners have told the Roscommon People that the current Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) rate has made it difficult to entice new staff while costs relating to outdoor facilities have added further pressure on the beleaguered hospitality sector.

Chairperson of the Roscommon Town and District branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), Larry Brennan, described Monday’s reopening as the first steps on the road to a full reopening.

“I am absolutely delighted that those who have the facilities to do so can reopen on Monday,” he said.

“Hopefully these are the first steps now on the road to a full reopening for all pubs and businesses”.

Mr. Brennan, who runs ‘Down The Hatch’ with business partner Seamus Hayden, said the reopening wouldn’t suit some businesses.

“It unfortunately won’t suit everyone, no more than ourselves. We haven’t got the facilities to reopen on Monday but there are people who have invested a lot of money in outdoor facilities and I’m glad that some part of the sector can now reopen. Hopefully by July 7th we will all be open,” he said.

  Addressing publicans’ concerns regarding staffing, Mr. Brennan said the nature of the hospitality sector means that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is an attractive alternative to work.

“The nature of pubs and the sector in general lends itself towards part-time work. Staff are needed mostly at the weekends and holidays when pubs are busy and so perhaps it’s not viable for some people to back working on a part-time basis when they’re getting as much if not more sitting at home.

“I think it is inevitable though that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will go at some point. While no one wants to see anyone genuinely out of work having to suffer, there is no doubt that there is a fair proportion of people happy to sit at home rather than reengage with work,” he said.

Meanwhile across the Roscommon area, business owners are gearing up for what promises to be a busy summer for the hospitality sector. The finishing touches are being applied to outdoor seating areas as last-minute preparations continue.

Marilyn and Gerry Kennedy have been working hard behind the scenes preparing an attractive new outdoor area at The Hayloft Music and Sports Bar in Strokestown.

Marilyn says the excitement has been building in recent weeks.

“We are very happy to be opening once again from Monday on. We’ve been doing a fair bit of work now for the last few weeks in anticipation of welcoming customers back.

“We had a very successful promotion on Facebook recently and we are hoping it all goes well now next week,” she said.

Marilyn said that it was also positive news that indoor dining would soon be returning.

“It’s good that it’s just a couple of weeks until customers can be indoors in pubs and restaurants…it finally looks like we are on the road to recovery,” she said.

Joe Dolan owns both Dalton’s pub in Fuerty and Dolan’s Bar in Creggs and says he is very excited to launch a food-led operation from next Monday.

  “It’s a large investment in our food service but we are looking forward to opening and allowing people to get back out and socialise once again. We’re hoping for the weather of course from next week and looking forward to the return of indoor service from July,” he said.

Joe says that some pubs are more capable of offering outdoor dining and drinking than others and the reopening restrictions have put added pressure on businesses.

He encourages customers to pre-book their tables to avoid disappointment.

“Dolan’s Bar will be open from 11 am next Monday in Creggs while Dalton’s Pub will be open from 12 pm. We have seating for 80 people in both and we’ll be serving food from 12 noon and we are excited about the summer and hope everyone can now return to socialising and make the most of it,” he said.

Anouska Lohan is the proprietor of Ned’s Bar in Knockcroghery and the chairperson of the County Roscommon branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland. She is looking forward to opening a brand-new seating area at her bar next Monday afternoon.

“It has been a long haul since last March, I don’t think we’ve even done 20 weeks of business since then.

“We are absolutely delighted to reopen, it was either do it and do it right or not do it all! We’ve put a lot of work into it and concreted the yard at the back of the pub and seating for up to 100 people. It’s great to be back and hopefully this is it now!”