'Cautious phase' back to normality should be implemented: Cork musicians and DJs respond to calls for pubs to reopen

'Cautious phase' back to normality should be implemented: Cork musicians and DJs respond to calls for pubs to reopen
Pictured are Cork musicians and DJs who remain without gigging jobs during the current pandemic. Clockwise: Lorcan Geaney, Stevie G, Colm O'Sullivan, Aaron O'Sullivan, Pat Fitz, Bongo Steve and The Old Moderns.

People in the music industry have been out of work for almost two months now and new proposals from The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) suggests that they could remain out of work for at least another three months.

The representative bodies for pubs in Ireland believe that the government’s phased approach to reopening businesses treats pubs as “second class citizens” and said that implementing social distancing guidelines will be challenging for all hospitality businesses and all should be given the same opportunity to trade.

The VFI and LVA have sought a meeting with government ministers about the implications for pubs and have suggested that pubs be allowed to reopen in the same phase as cafés and restaurants at the end of June with proposed measures in place in order to protect public health.

Some of these measures include: No sitting, standing, ordering, payment or drinking at the bar allowed; Table service will be a requirement with pubs only serving customers seated at tables; The numbers on the premises would be confined to no more than four per every 10 square metres; and no live music or DJs.

The proposals have been met with mixed reaction from local musicians and DJs whose income has ceased since the closure of pubs and nightclubs but most say that peoples’ safety is the single most important thing to consider during the current pandemic and that measures should be adhered to until it is safe to return to normality.

Aaron O'Sullivan

Musician Aaron O'Sullivan.
Musician Aaron O'Sullivan.

23-year-old Aaron O’Sullivan from Skibbereen has been living in Cork city since 2016.

Aaron performs his own music with Jordan Run and gigs at pubs and weddings with The Brightsides.

The musician is a regular performer at Coughlans Bar, Dwyers of Cork and The Oliver Plunkett.

He has been out of work for almost two months, since the closure of pubs in mid-March.

The CIT graduate has put investment in important equipment and instrument repairs on hold since being out of work and has been busy rescheduling cancelled events, tours and functions and live streaming gigs from home.

He said that pubs will be losing out on money due to capacity when reopened and therefore will not be able to afford to regularly pay for live music.

“There are very important rules to follow due to Covid-19, but if a pub can't allow a crowd in, they will be making less so how can they afford to regularly pay for live music.

“That said, I wouldn't mind playing to a smaller audience, the intimacy is nice and it'd be great to get back on the road again, and I'm sure any size crowd at any time, day or night would appreciate hearing live music,” he said.

Follow @aaronosullivanmusic in Instagram.

Colm O'Sullivan

DJ and radio presenter Colm O'Sullivan.
DJ and radio presenter Colm O'Sullivan.

DJ and radio presenter with RedFM, Colm O’Sullivan has been DJ, MC and host to some larger events Leeside.

Colm has gigged at many larger venues across the city and has most recently been a regular at Clancy’s Bar since it opened last November on Princes Street.

The last Dj set that Colm performed was in mid-March, one day before pubs were shut.

He said that there was a “nervous atmosphere” and that people felt uneasy about being out during what was a “really confusing time for people”.

He said that if pubs were to reopen at the end of June, social distancing would still be necessary as the country will still be in a “cautious phase of returning to normality”.

He said the VFI and LVA’s proposals may not work for smaller bars but that larger bars could operate safe social distancing measures.

He said that the idea of not having loud live music or DJs until August makes sense “as you really can't risk having people up dancing”.

He said that there is “certainly a place for a more chilled out, ambient type DJ set” and that he would be happy to DJ to a seated crowd at a bar implementing certain measures.

Colm said that the culture is changing in Cork and more people are frequenting late bars over nightclubs which would have a “much better chance of successfully implementing social distancing measures”.

He said that although he may not have any gigs for quite some time that peoples’ health and safety has to come first.

“We would all love to get back in action as soon as possible but it's important to only do it once it's safe for everyone.

He said that he is “proud” of how people have handled the situation and is “very positive about how we will emerge from this crisis”.

Follow @colmsully on Instagram.

Adam Kenneally

The Old Moderns from left to right: Isaac Higgins (Bass), Adam Kenneally (Drums), Peadar O Callaghan (Vocals/Guitar), Tom Cahalane (Lead Guitar).
The Old Moderns from left to right: Isaac Higgins (Bass), Adam Kenneally (Drums), Peadar O Callaghan (Vocals/Guitar), Tom Cahalane (Lead Guitar).

Adam Kenneally looks after many bands in Cork city with his business partner and founder of Partybands Ireland Justin Warnock.

The musicians both play over 50 weddings each year in their respective bands The Old Moderns and The Guilty Judges and have residencies in major pubs in Cork city including The Oliver Plunkett, Reardens, Dwyers of Cork, and Clancy’s.

Adam said that he and Justin “know the complete ins and outs” of the effects the virus has had on everyone in the industry.

He said that the virus has affected his band hugely with 100% of business lost with the closure of pubs and the rescheduling of weddings, He said that as much as the band is looking forward to just getting back to playing, he feels it would be taking two steps back if measures are eased too soon.

“We see it every night playing how the crowd starts off fairly relaxed and waiting for the first person to get on the dancefloor, by the end of the night it's almost like a zoo, after people have a few drinks they tend to just let loose and have a good time, I don't think social distancing would be the first priority on their mind,” he said.

He said that although times are “certainly different” that the band has adapted to the situation by putting on live gigs and posting content from past weddings and gigs.

Follow @theoldmoderns_band, @theguiltyjudges, and @partybands.ie on Instagram.

Stevie G

DJ and radio presenter Stevie G.
DJ and radio presenter Stevie G.

Well-known DJ and RedFM radio presenter Stevie G has been gigging in Cork since the 90s.

Being out of gigging jobs due to Covid-19 is “a disaster” that has wiped out a few months' work for the popular DJ but he said that he is lucky to have part time work elsewhere.

He said that he does not believe that music and culture is at the top of the VFI’s priority list but that music is “an essential part of our cultural heritage in bars and venues”.

He said that he could not see social distancing measures working for nightclubs but that bars offering a food service “should be treated like restaurants”.

“It’s very tough for bars and I can see why they want to open soon but obviously it’s going to be very difficult,” he said.

He said that although everything has changed for people in the music industry that musicians and DJs alike will “adapt accordingly” but that the government now has to support the industry.

“Venues will close and I’d like to see the government take our music and culture seriously, it’s what is marketed to tourists all the time. We all know other realms got a bailout and it’s vital to stimulate the economy.” He said that he has “written off most of this year” in terms of gigging and is now looking forward to 2021.

Follow @steviegrainer on Instagram.

Pat Fitz

Musician Pat Fitz.
Musician Pat Fitz.

Pat Fitz is a well-known Cork musician who has been gigging in the city for 22 years having started gigging properly at the age of 15.

He is the owner of The Pat Fitz Band, performing, managing and “bluffing” at weddings and big events such as The Rose Of Tralee.

Pat has darkened most of the doorsteps of Cork city and county over the years but most recently has been a regular of SoHo, Sober Lane, Reardens, and Tradehouse Central, as well as holding down slots in Dublin, Limerick and Kerry.

The Glen native said that although his income has “totally ceased”, that his heart goes out to those worse off who may be sick or who have lost a loved one.

He said that his career and projects such as The Pat Fitz Band and his events company, co-run alongside his friend Ken Perrott, are put on indefinite hold.

“All of my close friends are either bar owners, employees and musicians who play in bars and venues. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in these bars and I met my beautiful wife in The East Village bar. They are the social cornerstone of the country and if it could be done safely I would love to see all my friends back working.

“As for me though, my job, on most gigs, which I take very seriously, is to get people up dancing together and interacting with everyone to make sure they have an unforgettable night so it might not fit into the social guidelines but I’m sure that when it’s acceptable, and that day comes when people can come together again through music, they’ll call on me again to come play in their venues.” 

However, he said that he has for the last few years played “a lovely Friday evening gig in SoHo where people come in after work and have food, chat and listen to me playing chilled tunes in the background” which he said would be the type of gig that he would play should it arise and it was safe and socially acceptable to do.

He said that some publicans fear the cost of reopening while certain measures remain in place as “opening too early under current guidelines might dilute their product and damage their brand in the long run”.

He said that his biggest fear is that people might put in jeopardy “what every single person has sacrificed over the last few months”.

“I respect that the VFI is only looking out for its members, if they think that they can operate a business under these strict guidelines , while adhering to them 100%, I think they at least deserve to be heard by the Minister,” he said.

Follow @fitz_pat on Instagram.

Bongo Steve 

DJ and percussionist Bongo Steve.
DJ and percussionist Bongo Steve.

Stephen Healy is a DJ and percussionist more commonly known as Bongo Steve.

Stephen has been coupling live drumming with his DJ sets since 2013 and DJs all over the country and internationally and is a regular at Voodoo Rooms in his hometown of Cork.

He said that being out of work at the minute is less than ideal but that he appreciates that he and his family are healthy.

His calendar has been cleared as a result of the virus and all of his regular bar and nightclub gigs and larger events such as Kinsale 7’s, the Galway Races and other summer festivals have been cancelled.

“I completely understand and agree with the need for these measures and I think fair play to us all for adhering to them thus far.

“On the flip-side, I have been making the most of this down time getting creative in my studio. Previously I could never find the time to produce music as I was constantly on the road, “ he said.

He said that the measures proposed by the VFI would be “a big adjustment” as Irish people are sociable by nature and refraining from mingling would be a big change.

He said that prior to Covid-19 he noticed that late bars and beer gardens had been thriving and that creating more outdoor areas may make it possible to reopen such venues.

“It might take some thinking and reinventing for nightclubs but I think it’s doable. And if we do things right and carefully now, hopefully in the future these measures will be removed and things will return to next or near normal,” he said.

He said that he has received great support though his online channels where he has been doing live gigs but that the “online stuff isn’t the real deal”.

“While I really appreciate my virtual audience, I miss the buzz and energy from a real life audience. I miss the personal interactions and overall craic,” he said.

Folow @bongo_steve on Instagram.

Lorcan Geaney

Musician Lorcan Geaney.
Musician Lorcan Geaney.

Lorcan Geaney is a 25-year-old musician from Blarney who performs primarily as a solo musician in bars such as The Washington Inn, An Bodhrán and Dwyers in the city.

Lorcan’s last gig was on March 14 and like other musicians in his position, has now been out of work for almost two months.

“My income has taken a hit but I am grateful for the Covid-19 pay but I doubt I'll gig again until next year,” he said.

“As much as I would love to gig, I understand having live music during this time might encourage the wrong behaviour when social distancing will be an essential part of bars reopening.

Lorcan Geaney playing for residents of the Elysian apartment block in the city centre on Friday night.
Lorcan Geaney playing for residents of the Elysian apartment block in the city centre on Friday night.

“A gig in a chilled out environment where restrictions are adhered to might be possible but overall it probably is safer to not have live music for the time being until we know that the restrictions can work in a bar alone.” He said that he has been “keeping quiet” in general since lockdown but was the focus of a viral video from an outdoor gig at the Elysian back in March.

Residents at the Elysian were treated to a performance by Lorcan which saw people requesting songs, cheering, and dancing on their balconies.

Follow @geaney_lorcan on Instagram.

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