'A real struggle financially and mentally': Cork publicans highlight challenges faced by industry on one-year anniversary of closure of pubs

'A real struggle financially and mentally': Cork publicans highlight challenges faced by industry on one-year anniversary of closure of pubs

A pint after being filled by Steven Hackett, owner, Nana's Bar, Douglas Street, Cork, before closing last year. 

A CORK publican has described the last 12 months as “a real struggle financially and mentally” for publicans, staff, and wider businesses.

The comments from Michael O’Donovan, owner of the Castle Inn on South Main St and Cork City chair of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), come on the one-year anniversary of the closure of pubs due to Covid-19.

 Publican Michael O’Donovan, chairman of the Cork branch VFI.  Picture Dan Linehan
Publican Michael O’Donovan, chairman of the Cork branch VFI.  Picture Dan Linehan

To mark the anniversary, Cork publicans are taking part in a campaign aimed at creating awareness of the industry’s challenges.

The #NotDisposable campaign, launched by the Licensed Vintners Association and VFI, is reminding the public of the many people involved in pubs, hospitality, arts, and entertainment who have been largely out of work since last March.

The campaign arises from recent comments made by Rory O’Neill, also known as Panti, who spoke of the struggles those in the industry continue to experience.

The social media campaign will see hundreds of pubs and individuals posting pre-pandemic photos of the people who work in these sectors.

Speaking to The Echo about the previous 12 months, Michael O’Donovan said that it has been “a real struggle financially and mentally” for publicans, staff, and those in a wider group of businesses, including musicians, DJs, security staff, breweries, distilleries, and food producers.

“Traditional pubs only got to open for two weeks in September and gastro pubs were really only open for about 16 weeks across the year,” he said.

“This #NotDisposable campaign that we’re running on social media is really to try to connect with customers but also to show that the pub is still here even though we are closed. The aim is to give people a reminder that we will hopefully have good times again but also to show that we’re still standing, even though we’ve been closed for the year,” he said.

Steven Hackett, owner, Nana's Bar, Douglas Street, Cork. 
Steven Hackett, owner, Nana's Bar, Douglas Street, Cork. 

Reflecting on the past year, Steven Hackett of Nana’s bar on Douglas St, said: “For me personally, it has been depressing. At the start I thought in three months we’ll be back on track, but little did I think a year in, that there would be no light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’ve given up all hope on a date being set for when we’d possibly be able to open again. I haven’t washed my hands of the industry or the pub itself, but I’ve given up hope because the Government doesn’t seem to believe that we can reopen safely,” he said.

Mr Hackett said the Government needs to take into account people’s mental health when it is deemed safe to reopen society again.

“I know we’re dealing with people’s health here, but we’re also dealing with people’s mental health. I’ve suffered and it has got me worked up.

“It’s affecting a lot of elderly people around the place too. The local pub is their point of contact. They come in two or three days a week to meet people and have a chat. They’re there to socialise, hear stories, and catch up on the news around the place,” he said.

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