BY Jackie Keogh and Kieran O’Mahony
MANY local businesses across West Cork now believe the latest Covid restrictions could be the last straw for them, as the country’s move to Level 3 this week saw several forced to shut their doors and let staff go – for now, at least.
Those in the hospitality sector have hit out, saying they’re taking the brunt of the restrictions, when it appears to be house parties that are mostly to blame for the drastic rise in Covid cases.
Regina Daly of The Church Restaurant in Skibbereen said the news was ‘terrible, devastating’ for her business. ‘It was tough when we were closed for three months, crippling. But, when we re-opened, we managed very well because we did everything by the book, and our customers felt safe. Now they are saying we can only serve takeaways and limit our numbers to 15 people outdoors. Who is going to sit outside in this weather?
‘It is not viable. I can’t afford to keep the business open on takeaways so I am going to have to close my business completely for the next three weeks. The staff are devastated. They are out of work again and are really worried. I think it should have gone into lockdown, not Level 3, because people are still out and about.’
Some restaurants, however, will continue to operate as takeaways including Budds Restaurant in Ballydehob.
Owner Jamie Budd said: ‘It’s not just the hospitality sector that is going to suffer – local businesses will suffer too – so I would appeal to everyone to continue to shop locally,’ he said.
Michael Casey of Casey’s in Baltimore said the restaurant in their 22-bedroom hotel will now be for residents only, but they can do takeaways for the public. ‘This is a big loss to the business, but it is important that everyone stays safe. If the pandemic is not controlled, things could become an awful lot worse. Hopefully, the restrictions will be of short duration and for the greater good.’
Michael O’Driscoll of The Tanyard bar in Skibbereen said they had just paid out on a new insurance policy and now have to shut up shop again. ‘The Government has no respect and the supports we are getting are a disgrace.’
Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) expressed his frustration with the decision to close pubs and restaurants saying many businesses will go to the wall.
‘The pubs have been closed in Dublin yet the virus is rampant in the capital,’ he said.
Danny Collins, Michael’s brother, is a councillor and the owner of the Boston Bar in Bantry. ‘Contact tracing would seem to suggest that the problem is with house parties. There should be a crackdown on these. It’s hard to know where all this is going to end.’
Chief Supt Con Cadogan said that with the increase to Level 3 Operation Fanacht in West Cork will be concentrating on the Kerry border in conjunction with their garda colleagues in Kerry, and operating checkpoints on roads in and out of Kerry in areas like Glengarriff, Ballyvourney, Castletownbere and outside Kenmare.
‘We will be still be doing our normal checkpoints across the division but they will be 24/7. We want people to stay within their county and abide by the guidelines and the majority of people do, to be fair,’ said Chief Supt Cadogan.
Blairs Cove in Durrus have decided to close up for the season a month early. Ann Woodward explained how they could have kept their dining room open for staying guests only, but that it wouldn’t have been viable, and that their decision had resulted in verbal abuse from some customers when cancelling reservations.
‘We have only traded three months out of an eight month season. We’ve no choice but to close to protect our business so we can open in 2021,’ she said.
The move to Level 3 has been described as ‘devastating’ by Martin Maybury, chair of the City and County branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI).
Martin who runs The Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway closed on Tuesday night said it’s very disappointing for all its members.
‘It isn’t the pubs that are causing the problems, it’s the house parties and the mass gatherings. We have always been saying that the pub is a controlled drinking environment and it’s not the problem,’ said Martin.
He added that the idea of serving drinks outside with a maximum of 15 customers is a ‘waste of time’ and not practicable.
‘It won’t be feasible for any business to open for just 15 customers and also we don’t have the weather’.
In Bandon, Donal Kelleher of The Copper Grove said: ‘We’ve got to save lives and stop the spread of the virus. This is our second time being closed since March and it’s difficult one to swallow. We’ve had to lay off staff again but it’s one where we don’t have a choice and we have to follow the guidelines,’ said Donal.
Meanwhile in Kinsale, Paul McDonald of Michelin restaurant Bastion said they have closed because they don’t have outdoor seating to facilitate diners.
‘It’s the food and drink waste that’s also a problem for us every time we close and re-open and you are talking hundreds of euro worth of waste,’ said Paul.
Meanwhile, all visitors are banned from visiting Bantry General Hospital until further notice due to the latest restrictions.
Visiting the hospital will be for exceptional cases only and this must be arranged through the ward manager. The same rules apply in CUH.
Cork County Council’s libraries have now returned to a click and collect system. Council owned tourism facilities and museums hhave also closed and the the of the Dursey Island Cable Car is restricted to island residents only. Indoor arts events are closed.
However, many services are still operational and open for business including council offices, playgrounds and swimming pools (for individual use only). Housing and roads services are open, as well as civic amenity sites.
The Council’s Community Support Programme will continue to be available to members of the public required to isolate or cocoon. It can be contacted for free on 1800 805 819, from 9am to 5pm, seven days a week.