A PROMINENT business owner described how the closure of Cork's retail sector is set to cause further heartbreak for an already devastated industry.
Andrew Rea, who owns, Simply Suits on the Kinsale Road, a store specialising in men's formal wear, warned that the latest Government decision to halt non-essential business will hit small business owners the most.
His comments were in response to further restrictions proposed by the government during a cabinet meeting yesterday evening. Other measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 included a ban on household visits and 5km travel restrictions.
Mr Rea warned of the possible repercussions for small business owners trying to stay afloat.
"The focus isn't on huge profits now," he said.
"Small business owners are paying for food on the table and keeping the lights on at home."
He explained how his business has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic.
"A number of our staff had underlying conditions so we have gone from having 12 working for us full time across our two shops, one of which is in Kerry, to now having just six."
However, one of the hardest parts, Andrew said, has been the uncertainty.
"Since before Christmas, we have been listening to news that we would have to go into level 5. Staff spent the entire Christmas not knowing if they were coming back to work on the 27th. This is a financial burden that we have been carrying since March. No matter how successful any business it this eventually takes its toll.
"Our first and primary concern is our staff. Before the pandemic, we were seeing each other five days a week and were more like a small family. There is a wage subsidy scheme that takes care of some of the wages, but obviously not all of them- yet we have no idea how long this lockdown might be. It's difficult to know if you should lay people off and let them go back on the pandemic unemployment payment or try to keep them on. There are tough decisions to be made."
He described 2020 as their "strangest year" in business.
"Last year we looked on course for a great year. The pandemic has been detrimental. Even when we were allowed to open people didn't need the clothing to go to work.
"Weddings were either cancelled or downsized so dramatically there were no guests outside of immediate family who needed suits. This has been the strangest year we have ever put down. As a small business owner, you are totally reliant on yourself so this has been very difficult."
Mr Rea criticised the government's treatment of small businesses.
"Back in March, the government made very rash decisions while under severe pressure. You could forgive the things they got wrong to look after the general population. However, we're now coming in January and they are still getting it wrong. The same mistakes are being made 10 months into a pandemic."