The streets around the town centre are looking more familiar these days as businesses around Dundalk begin to open their doors again. Footfall around the town has noticeably increased over the past two weeks since the second phase of the governments plan to get the economy moving again post COVID got under way.
With some pubs, restaurants and hotels scheduled to re-open this Monday when phase three kicks in there is a palpable sense of relief amongst Dundalk traders as life slowly but surely returns to some sort of normality.
According to BIDS manager Martin McElligott traders are delighted to be back up and running again and he feels that they should be optimistic about the future.
“Footfall around the town is definitely up over the last couple of weeks and we’re probably seeing shoppers on the streets who may not have done so before COVID19. They say it takes six to eight weeks to form a habit so hopefully a lot of people who have been discovering Dundalk for the first time have been pleasantly surprised by how much the town centre has developed. We’ve been working hard over the last while to improve the look of Dundalk and with the work that has been done in Clanbrassil Street and St Nicholas Quarter Dundalk hasn’t looked so well in a long time.
“Obviously some businesses are restricted at the moment and can’t trade to their full potential just yet but we should see another layer of positivity at the end of the month when phase three kicks in,” stated Martin.
Restaurants and pubs that serve food can reopen on June 29 with pubs without a food licence must wait three weeks longer before they can welcome back their customers. Failte Ireland issued guidelines last week around the re-opening of pubs and restaurants which will see patrons having to book a time slot with their visit being restricted to one hours and 45 minutes. There will be 15 minutes between bookings to allow for cleaning.
Where two-metre physical distancing is not possible, the guidelines say businesses are now allowed to implement a one-metre rule in controlled environments a measure which has been welcomed by Bodhran Bar owner Michelle Byrne.
“We have no food licence so we are not planning on re-opening until July 20. It’s hard to know what the new normal is going to look like and we’re probably talking at least months until it gets back to where it was but we will be delighted to see our customers again after three long months,” stated Michelle.
“I know it is very important to keep the virus at bay but the two metre rule is simply not practical for pubs to be able to trade. If they take it back to one metre we should be ok but I would imagine that live music will be gone for the time being,” she added.
In the Fairways Hotel Dundalk, Director of Sales and Marketing Siobhan McTigue explained how cutting-edge technology will play a part in keeping people safe.
“We will have a remote key card check in system where you just scan your phone at your room door to open it up and we are also looking at having a QR Code scanner at the restaurant tables where you use your phone to scan a barcode to bring up a food menu on your phone. Obviously not everybody may not have the ability to use this technology so we have to strike a balance and make sure we can cater for everybody. All our staff will be fully COVID certified via online training for our return and having put in a huge amount of work behind the scenes to ensure we adhere to all regulations we are really looking forward to welcoming people back to the hotel,” stated Siobhan.
Meanwhile in the Monasterboice Inn, Roseanne Donegan was also looking forward to welcoming customers back to the popular bar and restaurant.
“Lots of work has been done over the last number of weeks to ensure everybody stays safe. Our staff have been fully trained on the new protocols, we have a one-way system in place, tables have been re-arranged all to ensure there is the minimum of contact between people at all times. All customers must book before coming and that can be done online or by ringing us here at the bar. We can’t wait to greet our customers once again and together we can all get back to the new normal,” stated Rosanne.