BAR and restaurant owners across the city and county are feeling positive as they roll out the red carpet for the return of their customers and prepare for the much-anticipated resumption of outdoor dining.
Today, gyms, swimming pools, and cinemas will open their doors to the public for the first time in six months, and around 4,000 pubs will reopen as outdoor hospitality returns.
At Soho Bar in Cork City, staff have been working hard to get the place up and running and ready for the return to outdoor dining.
Sean McCarthy, one of the owners of Soho Bar, Paddy the Farmer’s bar, Tequila Jack’s, and East Village Bar and Restaurant, noted “a great buzz” around the city.
While Paddy the Farmer’s bar will not be opening just yet, Soho Bar is ready to welcome back customers with a few new additions.
“It’s been fantastic, there’s been a great buzz around even with the staff coming back, everybody is done with lockdown,” said Mr McCarthy.
“Staff are really, really enthusiastic, even helping to get the place ready, taking in deliveries and getting the place cleaned down again. It’s been great.”
Though he has provided takeaway services, Mr McCarthy said there is a real appetite for getting back to eating at restaurants and bars.
“It’s just tailing off now because people are done with takeaways and they are just beginning to look to restaurants and bars opening up,” he said.
He described the past 15 months as “very tough”, particularly for those in the hospitality sector, though since their return was confirmed, it has been all positivity.
“It’s been very tough for everybody. Especially for our business in hospitality, the uncertainty, the restrictions, there’s a lot of guidelines and we’re conscious then as well of people’s health, both staff and customers, so it’s been tough throughout.
“People, including myself, you have highs and lows, but since the announcement now of dates, it’s been nothing but enthusiastic and upbeat.”
Ahead of the return following a lengthy closure, he said that business owners are feeling “a little bit nervous”.
“It’s like starting all over again. It’s like opening a new business.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he added.
Over at Clancys bar on Princes St, owner Paul Montgomery said staff have been kept busy with preparations and that today’s return was being met with “great excitement”.
Mr Montgomery added that there is great anticipation following the news of the new outdoor dining set-up on Princes St.
Over the past week, poles were installed on the street to support large, colourful umbrellas.
“It will be really attractive. You have a lot of businesses there with a lot of good work done so it is going to be lovely,” he said.
“I think it is going to set Cork off as a prime tourist destination.
“I think Princes St will be destination Cork.”
Mr Montgomery said that he is expecting a busy summer, particularly as the bar moves to indoor dining in July.
He noted the resilience of people working in the sector.
“People have gotten very creative with the lockdown and I think publicans and restaurateurs, everyone has got more innovative, and it’s great.”