'Clonakilty is ready and waiting for a new positive chapter to begin': Great optimism and confidence in picturesque town ahead of restrictions being lifted

Clonakilty, like many towns, is optimistic as restrictions begin to ease. John Bohane talks to local business owners as they prepare to reopen after the lockdown
'Clonakilty is ready and waiting for a new positive chapter to begin': Great optimism and confidence in picturesque town ahead of restrictions being lifted

Carol Barrett, proprietor and her son Peter Barrett, general manager with Miriam Rea, front of house manager; Triona O'Leary, account and Aine O'Reilly, receptionist of Dunmore House hotel in Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THERE is great optimism and confidence in Clonakilty ahead of the scheduled easing of restrictions nationwide on Monday, May 10. The picturesque town is ideally placed to enjoy a very busy summer season. Clonakilty is centrally located, it offers a plethora of places for shopping and dining, and the West Cork town also contains driven and committed business owners who are determined to get the town buzzing once again.

Orla O’Donovan chair of the Chamber of Commerce said Clonakilty is an ideal place to do business.

“Clonakilty is a super place to live. From stunning beaches to vibrant shopping, excellent eateries, and locals with character it has something for all walks of life. The town has overcome serious challenges in the last few years, from serious flooding, major town roadworks, and the recent pandemic. Through it all, the resilience shown by traders and townspeople has been truly inspiring. Clonakilty is ready and waiting for a new positive chapter to begin,” she said.

Ms O’Donovan also owns the Fig and Olive café. She is looking forward to reopening once again.

Orla O'Donovan, chairperson Clonakilty chamber of commerce in Clonakilty Co. Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Orla O'Donovan, chairperson Clonakilty chamber of commerce in Clonakilty Co. Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I believe business owners are positive about the future. I am blessed to have a superb outdoor dining area in Clonakilty. I am eagerly and excitedly planning our reopening,” she added.

The Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce chair said the organisation’s aims are to ensure the unity that already exists between all the business owners remains strong.

“Business communities are stronger working together and that’s something we strive towards in the Clonakilty Chamber.”

The Mayor of Clonakilty, Padraig O’Reilly, said it is the people of Clonakilty who help make the area so special.

“The huge can-do spirit that is evident throughout our town is great to see. From our voluntary organisations, schools, and all the businesses, everyone in the community supports each other. This has shone through over the past year.”

Mr O’Reilly, who works in retail in the town, paid tribute to all the business owners who have overcome such a tumultuous time over the last year.

Padraig O'Reilly, Mayor of Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Padraig O'Reilly, Mayor of Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“It has been a very tough year for the business owners, but the strong spirit that is within Clonakilty has enabled the business people to turn it into a positive. It has also been great to see new businesses open in the town during the pandemic. I am looking forward to a very busy summer season,” he said.

Mr O’Reilly said it has been a huge honour to serve as the Mayor of Clonakilty. He is looking forward to several projects being completed which will further enhance the town.

“I aim to honour all in our community who have stood out during the pandemic. Another project I’m looking forward to seeing completed is the Clonakilty Youth Café. From a long-term perspective, I hope to see the many prospective housing developments completed. I also want to increase our tourism on an annual basis and promote our town at every juncture possible. I also want to see the development of the new state-of-the-art fire station as our firefighters deserve a better home,” he added.

Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, said that his native town has a special place in his heart.

“I love the place. There is a community spirit, cohesion, and a philosophy of working together to achieve great things. Clon is very resilient. The community buy-in is a huge part of its success. Everyone has a role to play, both young and old. It is a place where people are not afraid to give new things a try. There is a strong and positive attitude in the town.”

Deputy O’Sullivan said that the excellent amenities and facilities which exist within the Clonaikilty hinterland have ensured it is well placed to thrive in the coming months.

“Clonakilty has a huge number of accommodation offerings such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, and glamping.

“There is huge natural beauty in Clonakilty. There are loads of things to see and do in the local Clonakilty area.

“When inter-county travel opens up, Clon will be well placed to do well. We have got the coast, accommodation, the facilities, and the people.”

Clonakilty is a much sought-after place to live. There are currently hundreds of houses being built to meet the growing demand. The Fianna Fáil TD hopes to complete more projects for the Clonakilty area in the near future.

“There are 100 social houses almost ready to be allocated. We have also got a couple of hundred more in private development which will also meet the needs of the market. I hope to extend the Joe Walsh walkway as far as the River Argideen, upgrade the playground, and provide a skatepark. The town is well catered for in terms of broadband, but there are poor pockets.

“I have been dealing directly with the NBI. Hopefully, we can accelerate the rollout.”

Mel Long, Shane Lowney and Kevin O'Donovan of Scannells bar in Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Mel Long, Shane Lowney and Kevin O'Donovan of Scannells bar in Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Kevin O’Donovan, the joint proprietor of Scannell’s Bar in Connolly Street, and his business partner Shane Lowney, have seen many changes during their 19-year tenure.

“We started off as two young single lads who took on a pub. We are no longer single. We are older, greyer and we have a few children, thank God,” he said.

Mr O’Donovan acknowledged that the onset of Covid-19 presented a real challenge, but equally afforded him opportune time to spend with his beloved family.

“From a business perspective, it was a challenge. From a personal perspective, it was a great opportunity to spend quality time with our families. It gave us time to take stock of life.”

The bar owner praised the politicians for their support of business owners throughout.

“The support in place from the Government was magnificent. You are not making anything, but you are not going backward either. They deserve great credit.”

Scannell’s Bar has been closed since last October. Their plan going forward is to use their spacious beer garden and become established as a pub that serves food. Kevin is looking forward to a busy summer once they reopen on Monday, June 7.

“We are looking forward to seeing our regulars and new people coming through the doors. Clonakilty is busy throughout the year and it has a sustainable trade. The population is good and being so close to the city is also convenient.

“Employment is strong. Tourism is important, but there is no reliance on it. It is a great place to live and raise a family.

“We are surrounded by beautiful beaches and we have such a pretty town full of character. The schools are very good and the sports facilities are very impressive. It is a wonderful place to bring up children,” he added.

Sheila Browne who owns Options Boutique on Pearse Street said it has been a very tough few months since the turn of the year.

Sheila Browne of Options boutique in Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sheila Browne of Options boutique in Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I have been closed since December 31. It has been tough, stressful, and frustrating. The click and collect not being allowed was difficult. We went online last year which will be helpful going forward as we will have a base to work from. There is nothing like an open door, however. The Government has done as much as it could do. It has been a hard year, but we are coming out on the right side now,” she said.

Ms Browne welcomed the recent measures announced by the Government. She is looking forward to re-opening her ladies boutique which has been operating for 31 years.

“The click and collect is back on Monday, May 10. This will be a huge help. Removing the barriers to inter-county travelling will also be key. Staycations will be a huge addition once again this summer. They lead to more business and greater spend in the local economy.

“Clon is a great market town with something for everyone. It is very family-friendly. We have great clothes shops, shoe shops, plenty of pubs with live music and a good buzz. There is a feel-good factor to the town. There is a fantastic community spirit. People are so willing to accept people’s ideas and new people to the town. It is a very positive town,” she added.

Dena O’Donovan from O’Donovan’s Hotel said their business still has a bit of business trickling in.

“We have kept going all the time. We are doing essential services on weekdays. It is very quiet, but it is keeping us sane,” she said.

Dena O'Donovan, with her brother Tom O'Donovan and his son Tom at O'Donovan's hotel in Clonakilty Co. Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Dena O'Donovan, with her brother Tom O'Donovan and his son Tom at O'Donovan's hotel in Clonakilty Co. Cork. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The hotelier said the family business has survived everything thrown at them during their 250-year existence. This recent pandemic won’t deter their determination to succeed.

“We have weathered the Famine, World Wars, Spanish Flu, storms, recessions, floods and we will weather Covid too. We are looking forward to a busy summer. We are lucky we are in the middle of town.

“We have an alley that affords us a second street frontage, we have a lock-up yard which we might use for extra seating and we have a beer garden. Every door has to be an opening for people to come in and spend money. We will never be multi-millionaires, but we will never be out of business.”

Ms O’Donovan said it is imperative that people continue to shop locally going forward.

“We just need people to buy local now. The local businesses really need all the support they can get. Without the local people, we have nothing. On our street alone, two or three businesses have closed down which is sad,” she added.

Carol Barrett, the proprietor of Dunmore House Hotel, is excited to reopen the family business.

“I am the third generation family member in the hotel. My son Peter now works with us and he is the fourth generation. We have been here since 1934. We opened for 100 days last year in total. We are looking forward to being busy once again. We have wonderful staff. We are full until mid-September once we reopen our doors,” she said.

The hotel proprietor said that Clonakilty represents an ideal place for tourists.

“Businesses in Clonakilty have always worked well together. Clon is a great place and town. We are very fortunate to live and work here. Clonakilty is a great place to live and raise a family,” she added.

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