Business owners in Roscommon town are this week adapting to a ‘new normal’ as they reopen their premises’ following the beginning of Phase Three of the lifting of lockdown restrictions on Monday.
Daire Stephens, who co-owns the Comfy Café on Main Street with his sister Oonagh, says the new protocols will take time to get used to.
“We were open for takeaway purposes but since Monday we have been welcoming customers back into the Comfy Café. It’s great to get our team back together again.
“As per the guidelines, we have new seating arrangements, and while I was worried about the changes, they actually enhance the place. There is more privacy and more room for customers now.
“The new procedures are difficult but I find if you think about it too much you can make them more difficult. You’re better off just getting on with it,” he said.
The Comfy Café opened its ‘coffee window’ at the front of the premises a few years ago and Daire says it has been popular with customers in recent weeks.
“I think we had a crystal ball when we introduced the coffee window because it’s now working a treat! Some people still aren’t comfortable with coming in and sitting down and that’s going to be a slow process in terms of building up confidence (in the new protocols). The coffee window makes it easier for people who are on lunch break or just walking by to grab coffee on the go,” he said.
Business has been fairly good since Monday and Daire is hopeful that things will continue to improve in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been busy enough but there hasn’t been an avalanche or anything like that. It’s going to be a slow process and hopefully the danger (of Covid-19) will begin to ease and people will become more comfortable sitting in. It’s a case of so far, so good though this week,” he said.
Regan’s Gastro Pub and Restaurant is set to reopen this Friday afternoon and proprietor David Regan is looking forward to welcoming customers back.
“We have the protocols from the HSE, the HSA, Fáilte Ireland, and the Vintners Federation of Ireland have contributed as well. We’ve put a safety plan in place to protect our employees and our customers. We will be taking temperature readings of our employees as they arrive for work. They’ll also complete a ‘return to work’ form to make sure that they are safe to do so. In terms of our customers, we will have a protocol on every table where we will explain what we intend to do.
“We are opening this Friday (July 3rd) at twelve o’clock and we’ll be open from then on. We would prefer if customers booked in with us before attending and we’ll record their details when they come in, as per the guidelines.
“It’s quite busy with bookings this weekend and it’s about testing the water to see if customers are comfortable coming in. If we have the proper protocols and safety measures in place then I think our customers will be comfortable to come back,” David said.
While everything is being done to ensure customers and staff are safe and comfortable, there will be a knock-on effect for venues like Regan’s in terms of capacity.
“Capacity-wise, we are going to be restricted. We’re fine if it’s a family unit of course but if it’s a non-family unit then we have to have space all around them. That will be a little bit challenging but we will be asking everyone who comes if they are a family unit in order to ensure we are providing that space,” he said.
Enforcing the rules will also be important for businesses like Regan’s and alcoholic drinks will only be served under the new guidelines.
“If a customer is looking to purchase an alcoholic drink then we have to make sure they spend €9 on their meal. We’re hoping that our customers will understand and that the time limit of one hour and forty-five minutes plus fifteen minutes for cleaning will be honoured. After that it becomes dangerous for people to be in that internal space so we have to police that properly,” David said.
Reopening is the light at the end of the tunnel for business owners but David knows this lockdown has been tougher on some.
“We can’t wait to reopen. It’s been a tough few months but nothing compared to what some families and those on the frontline have been through and we have to remember that. We’ve all sat at home while doctors, nurses and other essential workers have been at work taking care of us,” he said.
There is a real buzz around Regan’s, however, as the staff prepare to reopen the doors on Friday afternoon.
“To see the enthusiasm of our team, it’s incredible. They’ve come back in and it’s like Manna from Heaven. There’s a great buzz…to do what we’ve done in the past and re-launch.
“Of course we’ve also missed our customers during this time too so to meet them again and catch up is so important for us. We really can’t wait to get it open again…for our own sanity as well!”