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Sailing into uncharted territory

Features

Having only just taken over the running of the Western Strands Hotel in Belmullet, David Tyrell is hoping for a better summer

Belmullet
Anton McNulty

WHEN you start out on a new business venture which includes taking out a lease on a small hotel in the west of Ireland, the last thing you need is for a global pandemic to close the place down just as you are starting off.
Well spare a thought for David Tyrell, the former manager of the Broadhaven Bay Hotel, who went out on his own in November when he took out a lease in the Western Strands Hotel in the heart of Belmullet. He was looking forward to his summer season after spending some money in the winter only for Covid-19 to throw everything up in the air.
“We were only getting started and had money spent and tiles put down and a new bar counter put in and a lot of work done and then this came and we had to stop,” he told The Mayo News. “When we closed just before Paddy’s Day I thought it would be closed for two or three weeks, I didn’t think it would be this long closed.”
David said he was thrilled last week when Leo Varadkar brought forward the easing of restrictions which will now see hotels allowed to open up at the end of the month and hopes they may be brought forward even sooner.
While the hotel’s kitchen opened up for weekend takeaways in May, David said there is a lot of catching up to be done.
“In the months of April and May we lost an awful lot with Communions and Confirmations and Christenings and golf bookings at the weekend. I am just starting out and things were looking good but I don’t know where I will be come the end of this year. I was blessed with the good Christmas because it has held us over,” he explained.
In the last week he has been encouraged by the number of enquiries from people looking to stay in the hotel which gives him some hope for the rest of the season.
“I think people will come and visit family members they haven’t been able to see. There are enquiries coming in and that is encouraging. Belmullet is famous for its festivals in August. They haven’t cancelled anything yet and I hope they don’t. If things keep progressing when we come into July and things start to open up a little bit I think by August I’d like to think we would be back in full swing again.”
However, despite that optimism, he also knows that with Covid-19 nobody knows what they are dealing with and feels businesses are still sailing in uncharted waters.
“There is a roadmap but there is no precedent with what we are dealing with here. It is uncharted territory. Just because we can open at the end of the month, it doesn’t mean that the customers will come into us or you will get the sales that you need to keep the place open.
“I don’t think there will be many late nights and music in bars. I know when we open up it will be food table service and drink brought down to you. I’d say places will probably be closed by ten o’clock but I just don’t know what to expect. The dynamic will change with food and drink and table service and people will probably be out [home] earlier … for a while anyway.”
He also sees the current two metre social distancing limit as a big problem.
“There is a big need to reduce the social distancing limit. Our bar is quite small at the front of the hotel … I might get two or three tables for overspill for food but that will be it. I will only be working through the lounge and the restaurant area and try to incorporate the smoking area in it if we can at all. That is what I am trying to do so we can have ourselves in such a way we won’t lose too many numbers.”