Businesses in Cork are operating in “survival mode” with some trading with up to 20% of their employees out sick, according to the Cork Business Association (CBA).
Speaking to the Echo, CBA President Eoin O’Sullivan said it was “difficult” for traders at the moment, citing staffing shortages across all industries and the 8pm closing time for hospitality.
“It's a quiet time of year and trade is low, so it is kind of manageable, but still difficult.”
His comments follow the latest in a string of temporary closure announcements from hospitality sector establishments in the city.
Arty cocktail bar, Atlas, which opened in 2020, decided to shut its doors on Thursday.
Posting on social media the management team said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have taken the decision to close the doors of Atlas for a little while. With our small body of staff, the current rate of infection and new trading hours, we feel it is in the best interest of everyone to take a little break.
The closure is one of many, with a number of venues, including The Glass Curtain, Thompsons, both on MacCurtain Street, The Raven on South Main St and Tom Barrys on Barrack Street all shutting down for a period recently to stay safe amid the current Covid spike.
Cork institution, Crane Lane, also took a mini-break due to staffing shortages caused by holidays along with some employees isolating or ill with Covid.
The late-night venue closed on Monday, January 3 and reopened yesterday with new opening hours.
Crane Lane and Upstairs are open at the earlier time of 2pm, every day, with the evening menu now available from 3-7pm in Arthur Mayne's.
Speaking to The Echo, owner of the Cork Heritage Pubs, including Crane Lane, Mutton Lane, The Oval and Vicarstown Bar, Benny McCabe said he “loathed to close his doors” as he felt strongly about providing the service his establishments offer.
Mr McCabe said only in “extreme circumstances” would he do so, but also said his staff deserved a break and between people out sick and holidays, it was the right decision.
The businessman, who also owns DeCalf Cafe in Cornmarket Centre, said he closed the cafe and redeployed the staff to some of his other establishments to cope with the staffing needs and logistics of the ongoing Covid spike and January holidays for hospitality staff.
Mr McCabe said he was determined to keep his doors open and said his staff wanted to stay working.
“Nobody wants to go back to this time last year. Anything but being stuck at home, the mental health issues that came out over the past year have been unbelievable.”
Mr McCabe said his staff and his venues were providing an important service to the people of Cork and he would strive to maintain that.
In terms of business, the publican said things were steady.
“Mutton Lane has an early licence, we open at 8.30am and we have bums on every seat, every hour of the day. We have had no issues or incidents, it has been pure luck. People are self-regulating.”
Cork Chamber also commented on the ongoing situation facing businesses across Cork city and county.
Cork Chamber’s Director of Public Affairs Thomas Mc Hugh said, “The business supports announced before Christmas have helped to ease the blow for those in the hospitality sector who have had to navigate their way through more restrictions including an 8pm closing time. However, many sectors are now trying to deal with staffing shortages as Covid-19 continues to spread.
“The year ahead offers a lot of hope and promise but securing continuity for the arts, hospitality, the retail sector who rely on city and town centre footfall remains a key challenge.
"We are calling on the Government once again to further detail its intent for the coming weeks and months regarding restrictions and all supports to enable businesses to better prepare themselves.”