'To be called non-essential is an insult': Cork retailers to shut for second time in seven months

'To be called non-essential is an insult': Cork retailers to shut for second time in seven months

John Nevillle of Neville Jewellers, will close up shop from Wednesday after reopening his store back in June. Pic; Larry Cummins.

Many Cork businesses are facing closure for the second time following Monday’s announcement that the country will enter Level 5 restriction from Wednesday.

Businesses that are set to close include clothing stores, bookstores, jewellers, florists, hairdressers and gyms, to name a few, and bars and restaurants can operate on a takeaway basis only.

The closure of such businesses will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and will cost the exchequer hundreds of millions of euro in lost taxes and in welfare payments.

Those that can remain open along with supermarkets and pharmacies include hardware stores, electrical stores, bike repair shops, and opticians.

Not only were Cork retailers met with the shock of last night’s decision but some were also met with flood damage after overnight floods on Monday night caused damage to some premises.

Carole Horgan of Best of Buds florist said that after a sleepless night of knowing she would have to close her doors yet again, she faced cleaning up the shop after water came in both entrances and the back of Winthrop Arcade where she is based.

She said that she and her colleagues came in and “just cried” on Tuesday morning.

Ms Horgan said that she has been panicking at the news of entering Level 5 restrictions since the announcement which she said should not be made at 9pm at night.

“You’re just sitting at home thinking what’s the best I can do. The best advice comes from retailer to retailer because we decide together but then there’s nobody you can ring at that hour and then you don’t sleep.” 

She said that she will adapt with the intention to move to a click and collect service but believes that “a number of the people who had scant regard for Level 3 are the same people who will have scant regard for Level 5”.

“I think fines are the only way to go. We opened on Sunday just to get ready for Christmas and the amount of people congregating outside with no masks on. It was beggars belief,” she said.

John Neville of Neville Jewellers said that it was an insult and an outrage to be regarded as a non-essential business.

“To be called non-essential is an insult to everybody that’s running a business and that pays their taxes and provides jobs and careers.

“Retail is now being thrown in the bin because we’re deemed non-essential in what is the most extraordinary set of circumstances for anybody in business.

Mr Neville said he is currently phoning suppliers to hold on deliveries until the end of November with his closure now having a knock-on effect on suppliers and wholesalers also.

Owner of Pro Musica on Oliver Plunkett Street, Eileen Madden, said that the team are now preparing for another closure with their online and phone service which she said is an important part of providing for the customer.

Pro Musica staff members from left to right: Brian Dunlea, Aaron McCarthy, Teresa Welch, Kinga Pelowska, Garrath Burke-Weigt and owner Eileen Madden. Pre-Covid photo.
Pro Musica staff members from left to right: Brian Dunlea, Aaron McCarthy, Teresa Welch, Kinga Pelowska, Garrath Burke-Weigt and owner Eileen Madden. Pre-Covid photo.

“We’ll be diverting calls to our mobiles and we’ll get the goods out as much as we can and generate business that way.

“The phones are better in our line of business because people want to know about the products, they want advice and to know the difference between one piano and another or one guitar or another and we’ll talk them through it over the phone. The personal touch is so important really in a specialised business like ours,” she said.

Richard Gavin of the SpitJack who runs both the restaurant on Washington Street and in Limerick city has been offering a click and collect service for Cork customers since the announcement of Level 3 restrictions with the terrace at the Limerick restaurant open for outdoor dining until Level 5 restrictions were announced.

Mr Gavin said that although it was unfortunate to be moving to another lockdown, that after a very daunting March they now know what to expect.

“Thankfully we’ve had a good three months trading so we know don't have to start from the beginning again, we know what we’re doing, we know the product, we know the system that works and at least we’re in a bit of a better situation so as bad as it is, it doesn't feel as bad as it did a few months ago.

Laura Sureda, co-owner, (left) and Sarah Fitzgerald, restaurant manager, The SpitJack, which reopened with perspex screens for restaurant table service in accordance with guidelines at Washington Street, Cork, on Monday, June 29. Picture Denis Minihane.
Laura Sureda, co-owner, (left) and Sarah Fitzgerald, restaurant manager, The SpitJack, which reopened with perspex screens for restaurant table service in accordance with guidelines at Washington Street, Cork, on Monday, June 29. Picture Denis Minihane.

He said that the objective now is damage limitation and hopes that they will be able to reopen over the Christmas period, staff dependent as “house operations is about 90% dependent on students, a lot of whom have moved back home”.

Similarly, Mike Ryan, owner of the Cornstore and CoqBull, said he too will move back to a takeaway service which he said he won’t be making any profit from but will “just keep things running and keep the name out there”.

Clodagh Daly of John Daly opticians is one of those who is deemed as an essential worker and so will continue to serve customers from the Oliver Plunkett Street store.

 Clodagh Daly, John Daly Opticians, will continue to welcome customers to the store on an appointment basis only throughout Level 5 restrictions. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Clodagh Daly, John Daly Opticians, will continue to welcome customers to the store on an appointment basis only throughout Level 5 restrictions. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

She said that this time around, it is second nature as staff are used to the PPE and sanitization stations and perspex screens have been in place since reopening on May 18.

“Everything is moved to appointments only and we’ll be checking everybody's temperature too. We’re just trying to provide the service that we can give in the safest way for everybody,” Ms Daly said.

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