CORKONIANS endured 90-minute queues in the blazing heat to enjoy restaurant cuisine for the first weekend since Covid-19 dining restrictions were lifted.
Ernest Cantillon, who owns the Electric bar and restaurant on the South Mall, said the demand for tables was stronger than they had ever seen before.
He added that people were also more decadent in their menu choices, with copious amounts of lobster consumed on the premises.
The glorious weather only added to the experience, as temperatures soared to over 20C.
Mr Cantillon described the weekend as “spectacular”.
“People queued for 90 minutes in the sun,” he said. “When they finally got a table, they didn’t want to leave. Saturday was like a whirlwind. People hadn’t been out in so long they ordered the most decadent items on the menu. A lot of customers ordered the lobster. Many people had been cooped up for so long that they wanted to feel like they were living again. We have never had so many outdoor seats. The city was rocking.”
Despite the long queues, Mr Cantillon said that spirits were high.
“Last time we opened, after restrictions were lifted, the conversation was a lot different,” he said. “People were asking about who they knew that was sick. Now the main question on people’s lips is “when are you getting your vaccination?” or “how long before you get your second jab?” Before, people were siloed in their contact and customers barely looked at one another. Everybody felt safer this time round given that they were outside.”
He described the experience as very reassuring.
“This has given us a lot of hope,” he added. “Even to have people text you to say that they spotted the long queues outside was very reaffirming.”
He added that outdoor dining had numerous advantages for staff as well as customers.
“It felt like we were opening a new place again. One of the advantages of the outdoor dining was there was no real mess to clean up inside at the end of the night so staff were able to leave almost straight away. They worked really hard and made the first weekend back such a success. We also owe a lot to the gardaí, who have played a blinder to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.”
Outside the city, beaches, towns and tourist spots were busy at the weekend, with gardaí advising people to turn away from beaches such as Garretstown due to heavy traffic.
Meanwhile, gardaí continued to maintain a presence on the streets to prevent antisocial behaviour and keep crowds to a minimum.
A Garda spokesperson said they were not aware of any serious incidents over the weekend stemming from the reopening of pubs and restaurants in Cork City.
Despite pleas from the hospitality industry to allow indoor dining in all restaurants this month, that restriction will remain in place until July 5.
People were advised to take advantage of the mini-heatwave as the high temperatures look unlikely to last.
While Met Éireann reported that the outlook for next weekend is uncertain, early indicators suggest that the weather will be changeable and unsettled.
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