A CORK business owner whose business has remained closed for over a year says she is “chomping at the bit” to reopen her doors to the public.
Beverley Matthews, owner of L’Atitude 51 wine bar on Union Quay, has remained resilient despite having to face a slew of hurdles she never could have anticipated.
In March 2019, on Patrick’s Day, L’Atitude was ravaged by a fire and extensive damage was done to the premises.
“It nearly all came to an end,” said Beverley, who remembers the day vividly.
“It was about 8.30 in the morning on Paddy’s Day which traditionally is one of our busiest days of the year because we’re at the start of where the parade kicks off and there’s a great buzz around the area.
“We had been prepping food like mad beforehand and I needed to get the whole team in early to get everything ready, so I was just getting ready to go in and I got a phone call from my cleaner telling me that there was an alarm going off and she didn’t know what the alarm was.
“I thought it was the burglar alarm so I told her to try a code and that didn’t switch it off so she said she was going to just check to see what it was and the next thing I got a phone call from one of the stewards from her phone who said that there was a fire in the building so I had to phone the Fire Brigade and obviously run in to see smoke billowing from the top of the building,” Beverley told The Echo.
“I arrived to see four units from the Fire Brigade tackling the blaze. It’s very hard to take in, you’re looking but you’re not really seeing it. You’re a bit numb,” she continued.
One whole year after that fire, the extensive repair works to the listed building were due to be completed and L’Atitude was on the brink of reopening before a global pandemic broke out.
Despite feeling like “limbo had been extended”, Beverley retained a pragmatic mindset during such a challenging time.
“The whole world was turned on its head, so it made my problems seem a bit smaller.
“In a way, I kind of feel I was lucky that I hadn’t opened in March and had to deal with the heartache of telling staff that we would have had to close again.
“That would have been really really hard.”
When the fire occurred in 2019, L’Atitude had been open eight years and had established a loyal cohort of customers.
“I had always been fascinated with wine.
“I’d lived in Italy for a number of years and when I was there I used to visit a lot of vineyards. There’s a weekend at the end of May every year where they open up all the vineyards to the public and you can see inside the most amazing cellars and taste the most amazing wines.”
Beverley returned to Ireland in 1999 but travelled to Italy annually in May.
“My plan initially was to set up wine tours but then the recession hit so that ruled that out.” Attaining a diploma in wines and spirits, Beverley took the plunge in 2011 and decided to set up L’Atitude.
“Timing is everything really. By the time I was finishing that diploma I was also made redundant from my previous job of 12 years.
“There was a friend of mine who I had done the diploma with who was also interested in setting up a business so the two of us joined forces way back in 2011 and we set up L’Atitude.
“Again, it was all about timing because 1 Union Quay became available and it was everything we wanted.
“It was fully licenced so we could serve a glass of wine as well as serving food but we didn’t have to serve food.
“It has the most beautiful room upstairs where we could do wine events.
“It really was the perfect venue,” she continued.
When her business partner moved back home to France in 2015, Beverley decided to run the business herself.
Despite going it alone, Beverley always had the support of fellow Cork business owners, however.
This sense of community and comradery came to the fore in 2019 when city businesses and venues including the likes of Ali’s Kitchen, Idaho Café and St Peter’s rallied around Beverley and collaborated with L’Atitude to run a series of Pop Up events.
It’s a kindness Beverley won’t forget and one she says she is eager to repay.
“If there was anything we could do inside L’Atitude now that we will have a beautifully restored building I’d love to do that,” she said.
“My suppliers were incredible too.
“A lot of them cancelled the bill and one of my suppliers is storing all of the furniture for me. People are just amazing.”
Speaking about the grand reopening of L’Atitude, Beverley said she is hoping to welcome customers back in the very near future: “I think in the back of my head I have the end of August/the start of September as when I would like to see us reopening the door,” adding that she is currently looking at colour samples and furniture for a new fit out.
For the reopening, Beverley is hoping to draw inspiration from Parisian caves à manger to bring something new to Cork.
“Essentially a caves à manger is a wine shop where you buy your wine and you can also pay corkage if you want to sit and have some wine in and then you can have plates of charcuterie to go with that,” she explained.
“It’s the spirit of what L’Atitude was but something that will be slightly different and I think this caves à manger style is something very new to Cork. I don’t think anybody else is doing it,” she added.
Beverley is also hoping customers will be able to enjoy some al fresco dining and sipping when L’Atitude reopens.
“Outside Union Quay, they are in the process of repaving the area along the river for the four business, so for myself, for Charlie’s, for Union Grind and for El Fenix to have seating along the river. Of course, it’ll be a summertime thing but when the sun is shining it’s a beautiful spot of Cork to be in.
“I’m so looking forward to welcoming people back to what I hope will be a new and improved L’Atitude.”