DWYERS of Cork, which opened in 2018, was described by a food safety authority officer recently as being "built for the Covid-19 era" with all the snugs and booths.
Director and manager, Chris Weldon, said that wasn’t what they had in mind when they were setting up, but that they were very fortunate with how things worked out.
“Dwyers is set up well for this kind of thing, it is all snugs and booths, two and four-seaters, I think we had to take two tables out. And we operate a booking system anyway — normally we have two-hour slots, so now they are one hour and 45 minutes," he said.
Mr Weldon said there were not a lot of venues like Dwyers and it will hopefully stand to them.
“We have had a lot of demand, a lot of bookings, there are a lot of places not open yet and there is always a spike, but people are being very good, very understanding.
While the set-up is the same, Chris and his staff are now wearing PPE while working to protect their staff and themselves in the Covid era.
"The PPE and the deep cleaning is new, I’ve never cleaned as much in my life.”
Mr Weldon explained that all booths are sanitized between each booking to ensure the safety of all customers.
“Again we were lucky as the booths are made of red leather which is easy to wipe down, it is not fabric, which is great.”
The pub director said his staff had the option to wear masks or visors and said he was choosing to wear a visor.
“With the visor at least people can see your face and your lips, they can see you are talking and also I find the breathing in masks very difficult and I have a bit of a beard so that doesn’t help!”
Mr Weldon said people have been calling him Darth Vadar because of the visor, which he is not sure if that is good or bad thing.
While safety is key, Chris said being able to have a laugh is just as important.
“We are not being flippant, but we are human and we need a lift and the pub is a treat. A few drinks with some nice food. It is essential to put the customer at ease. They want to feel they are in a normal environment. It is still hospitality, it needs to run in that way.”
Chris said they have PPE for customers if they wish to wear them as well.
While there are many things working in their favour, Chris said he is aware the industry is in for a tough slog with staff working longer hours and plausibly working harder.
“Hospitality always takes the biggest hit in recessionary times, I feel like it’s going to be tough. The next six months, the survival plan is to break even. We have to be realistic.”
Looking ahead, Mr Weldon said there are a lot of unknowns, such as what will Christmas look like?
While his staff are working hard, Chris said there are some positives, with customers delighted to be out and about and tipping generously.
“The staff are making great tips, people are being very, very generous. They are happy to be out and it is nice, it helps motivate them, it is tough work. I have a good crew, they are very good at what they do.”
While cosy little booths are now the name of the game, Mr Weldon said the trade was moving in that direction anyway.
“The industry was changing anyway. People want comfort, they want their seat guaranteed.”’
He said that is what Dwyers was aiming for all along.
“The bar is designed for comfort. We get a lot of young couples on first dates. Even at weekends, we have an older age group. We are not built for students.
"Dwyers is for people who want to enjoy a glass of wine with some good food and watch the match, the focus is on the food.”
Mr Weldon said one concern he would have is that the tradition of sitting at the bar, reading a newspaper, will become a thing of the past.
“The sad thing is the old man at the bar, reading the paper, may become a thing of the past The old country pub where everyone knows you, I would be concerned that could go.
"I feel for smaller venues who are set up for that, where people go for a drink and they are not used to bar service. They will feel the pain a bit more.”
One thing Chris is not a fan of is telling people to leave after an hour and 45 minutes.
“The one hour and 45 minutes is a challenge. It is never nice telling people they have to go, but we have to be vigilant and abide by the guidelines.
"It is tough. Before you could swap someone to another table if you had it, but now there are no exceptions. People have to go or you are creating jams. In two or three weeks maybe it will be easier.”
Chris said there are some people booking in with other establishments and then coming to them for another booking or vice versa.
“There is nothing wrong with it. The smart ones are nibbling everywhere. If someone comes in looking for a rake of pints we won’t give it to them, we want people to have a drink and enjoy it.”
While enjoying a drink is important to the culture of Dwyers, their new cocktail menu is certainly making that venture that little bit easier.
“We have changed the menu and added some nice cocktails. There aren’t 200-300 people in the bar so we can do it now.”
Although working in a pub, Mr Weldon said he was dying for a pint himself, and joked that it was awful to own a bar but be too busy to enjoy a drink.
“It is the heart and soul of the venue, to make sure people feel welcome and relaxed, we have all been working very hard at that.
“It is very difficult, but I always try to be positive. We have had a lot of well-wishers, thanking us and we are still having a joke and a laugh.”