OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Pubs - ‘I think people just like to get out and about and back to a bit to normality’
Pints are being pulled across Meath again after pubs and bars that serve food were able to open for the first time since mid March.
Pubs can only reopen if public health guidelines are followed and they serve a substantial meal costing at least €9 with customers being permitted to stay for a maximum of 105 minutes.
Maria Kelly owner of the Round O Pub in Navan says it was like her ‘first day back at school’ as she and her team got to grips with their new normal. She said:
“It’s a new way of working, it’s completely different, the hardest thing are the masks, you could be here for ten or twelve hours and you have it on constantly and you are walking around, it’s a challenge.
“I felt sick this morning. It was like going into school on your first day.
“There are so many regulations so many new things to implement and you just want to get it right for both staff and customers.
“I knew today was going to be hard, there were things we didn’t even realise we needed throughout the day so it was a learning curve.
“This first week is going to be hectic but we are looking forward to getting stuck in.
“It’s great to be open and customers seem happy and comfortable being here.
“It was good to see the faces that we haven’t seen in four months.”
The strict time frame presents an extra challenge for staff according to Maria who says that everything is sanitised after each table leaves.
“People have been good with sticking to the 105 minutes, they understand.
“We have had to change our whole booking in system as well, you have to take what time they come in and what time they have to leave it is just so much extra work.
“People can walk in but we have to take their name and phone number so we can trace them.
“We have one girl just at that door who is in charge of taking the customer’s number, contact details and seats them and then you have to explain the one-way system and all of the procedures and you have to do all of that at a distance.
“It’s a lot of pressure because she has to ensure that they are in and gone within two hours.
“The hour and three quarters is giving you fifteen minutes to get that whole table, the table top, the table legs, the chairs, the salt and peppers taken off to be re sanitised.”
Despite the publicity surrounding the rules of serving alcohol in pubs, some punters still didn’t seem to catch on says the Round O owner.
“There were some people who came in looking to have a pint and we had to explain that no you have to get food and sit down at a table.
“We can serve drink but we are a restaurant really. We would never have opened if we were a drinking pub only.
“We have to keep the two metre distance at all times. We can’t go into the kitchen now where we used to run in and get milk or whatever.
“The kitchen is the hard part. We have two teams, A and B so those two teams will not be in contact at all. So team A is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and team B comes in Thursday to Sunday.
“We have moisturiser for our hands because anytime you touch anything it has to be wiped.
“You have to keep the one person in the one job because they know what they have touched."
Philip Foster of the Snail Box Bar and Restaurant at Kilmoon says Monday evening was "completely booked out."
“We are all excited, it has been fifteen weeks not seeing a customer or staff member, putting on trousers and a shirt makes a change!
“We have had to reduce the capacity of our tables by half and we have a metre between every one of them.
“We would have had 46 tables and now we only have 22.
“The floor looks so empty compared to what it used to be.
“We are completely booked out for this evening. I think people just like to get out and about and back to a bit to normality.
“We are a family based restaurant and we have people coming in with kids and they can’t wait to come back in and get an ice cream and sit there and colour in pages.
“The staff have been back since last week because we had to prep and get everything ready and to make sure everything is working properly as well too because it has been lying idle for weeks.
“We have spread staff out in the kitchen because we have the space to do it, it will slow service down a little but it will be the same everywhere, all we can do is try our best and keep going.”