An air of positivity has been reported in the Glanmire area as businesses, clubs and the local community finally look forward to a return to ‘a sense of normality’, reports Maeve Lee.
MANY businesses have used their time in lockdown to adapt and reimagine as they gear up for the reopening.
In the Glanmire area, locals have reported a consistent sense of community spirit even at the most difficult stages of the pandemic with many discovering a newfound appreciation for their area.
Now, as they look forward to getting back to normal, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement, particularly for those who have been working hard in the background to adapt and transform their business.
Under the recently announced guidelines, hotels, restaurants, pubs and sports are the latest to benefit as Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease.
Speaking ahead of their reopening on 2 June, Michael Magner of the Vienna Woods Hotel said they are looking forward to engaging with suppliers and welcoming customers again.
He said: “The aspect that we missed most was just having a buzz around the place. We’re missing the buzz of our customers and chatting with our customers and our conversation and our ability to chat has been restricted because of restrictions.
“It’s the first step in getting back into what will be some sort of normality into the future.”
With the number attending weddings now increased to 25, and the possibility of a further increase to 50 in July and 100 in August, Mr Magner said that the hotel’s wedding numbers are positive for the remainder of the year.
“Couples have been fantastic. They have been really, really great to work with because they have been thrown into a state of limbo all along as well.
“For anybody that hasn’t gone through a wedding or hasn’t experienced it, it mightn’t seem as being that relatively important but at that time in a couples life, when they choose to exchange their vows, commit to each other, it is the single most important thing in their life at this point in time.”
Having battled through a recession, he said it was “nowhere as near how difficult and challenging this entire period of time has been.
“It has affected all walks of life,” he added.
He said he is hopeful they will not be closing again until their annual temporary closure at Christmas in order to give staff the time to spend the holiday with family.
“After that, I never want to close again.”
Fianna Fáil TD Padraig O’Sullivan noted a “buzz” around Glanmire, particularly as the news of preparations for outdoor dining began to circulate.
“You can see people are preparing, in the cases of pubs and restaurants, people are getting ready, and you can even see from social media coverage that a lot of people have used the time to kind of adapt their pubs or their restaurants and think outside of the box - or outside really- for want of a better description.”
He said that a lot of businesses in the area have “used their time wisely,” noting the positive feeling among locals.
“There’s definitely a kind of uplift and there are more people in general out and about compared to a couple of months ago.
“I won’t say that we’re back to normal but there is a sense that we’re getting back to a greater sense of normality.
“Even when you’re talking, meeting people, that’s kind of recognised as well.”
One venue that has been working hard ahead of the return of customers is The Castle, Glanmire.
Following the success of last summer and the changes implemented, James Dullea of The Emporium Company said locals can look forward to their latest version of YARD at The Castle which has been reconstructed, rearranged, redecorated and reimagined this year.
“I suppose we had to change and adapt like everybody else,” he said.
“We were lucky with the amount of space that we had for our car park and we realised we had space and let’s use it and maximise it and get some people back in enjoying themselves.”
He said the changes last year were a big hit.
“Booking systems opened and it was very busy and we were lucky enough to even have some live music during the summer but that came to an end, but we’re looking forward to having it back again in the coming months hopefully.”
While The Castle has been providing takeaway drink and food, he said nothing beats seeing people enjoy themselves.
“We didn’t get the same buzz and atmosphere that you have once the venue is full, and the locals are in enjoying themselves.”
“We’re just looking forward to welcoming everyone back again,” he added.
Over at District 11 Kitchen and Public House, the team has also been putting in the work behind the scenes in preparation for the return of outdoor dining.
“The last two weeks have been absolutely mental. We’ve built an outside garden space,” said General Manager, Joanne O’Leary.
“Even our chefs, they were painting, they were planting, and it’s just been fantastic to be honest. We’re so lucky with the crew that we have here.”
With a new outdoor space, including a new herb garden she said the place is “buzzing”.
“Even our staff…they’re all so excited. They just can’t wait to get back into it and get back to work.
“Even with the hustle and bustle of decorating and this new garden, the amount of customers who are looking in going ‘oh lads we can’t wait’, we just cannot wait.”
She said the takeaway service can be lonely, with customers waiting outside the door and staff missing the chats with regulars.
“We are looking forward to getting all of our customers back in again and getting the buzz.”
The sense of excitement is also obvious among locals, with bookings for weekends “choc-a-bloc”.
“We can’t wait to just see bums on seats. Just to see everybody sitting down and everybody in great form, that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Local Councillor Ger Keohane said there is a sense of excitement among people in the area.
“There’s a big buzz around the place, there’s plenty of activity and people are in good humour and they’re hoping for a good summer,” he said.
The last year and a half has been a “struggle” particularly for businesses but he said that there is “a sense of confidence” in the area now.
One positive, however, has been a newfound appreciation for the local area as locals made the most of the 5km during the lockdown.
“Even people walking around Galammire through lockdown within the 5km, speaking to people, they didn’t realise how beautiful and enjoyable the Glanmire area is.”
Cllr Keohane said that many have been enjoying local walks while others have been getting involved in litter picking and community groups.
“They’ve learned a lot over the past year and a half and how lucky they are to be living in Glanmire and what they have in Glanmire.”
Gail Dowling Chairperson of the Glanmire Chamber of Commerce and owner of Dowling and Dowling Design Consultants said businesses in the area are cautiously optimistic after a difficult 15 months.
Recently, the Chamber ran a shop local campaign in a bid to get people back to local businesses.
Speaking to The Echo, Ms Dowling noted how the area was kept busy with walkers and local enjoying amenities during lockdown.
“People were always on the go and there were lots of coffee vans around the place.
“So, there was kind of a lovely buzz and like everywhere else, all of the women were delighted to get the hairdressers open and an appointment was like gold dust.”
Joe Organ of Joe Organ Auctioneers said things are “starting to lift again” in Glanmire.
“There’s a lot of footfall around and a huge increase in the last two weeks.”
“Our own office is down in the centre and we see an awful lot of footfall passing and before businesses reopen as well which is great,”
Siobhan O’Donovan of Diffusion Wear Boutique, who recently marked 24 years in business, quickly adapted to the pandemic by moving online.
“It was difficult because every shop in the world went online at the same time, so you are a very tiny dot in a huge pond,” she said.
However, she “got there in the end”.
“It is extremely difficult, but I would say I was supported hugely by the people of Glanmire as were all of the businesses locally.”
She described the first day back as “fantastic” and said that she was “wall to wall” with bookings when she returned on an appointment basis.
“I just love the interaction. I just love the brick and mortar store, not the online.”
“It’s fantastic. Brilliant to have the door open. There have been loads of old faces that I haven’t seen in years and new customers.”
Located alongside Sarsfields Hurling Club, she said since training returned, there was “a great buzz”.
“Throughout it all, I found people very positive. People were helping each other, looking out for the older,” she added.
Down the road at Sarsfields Hurling Club, the return of training has been warmly welcomed.
“There’s life back on the pitches now in Glanmire again everywhere which is brilliant,” said Chairman Tadhg Murphy.
He said that the club is “hugely supported” by all of the locals and noted the anticipation of a return of games.
“That will be huge for us to be honest.
“All our teams will be back operating again, from underage right up to the adults so it’s all systems go then for matches for the rest of the year which we’re all looking forward to.”
While online training sessions continued during restrictions, “nothing compares to getting back on the pitch”.
“They’re all really enjoy it.
“It’s like starting afresh. Everybody is in great form and looking forward to the training.”