GARDEN ESCAPE Ciaran Ferriter pictured in the beer garden of The Bowers Café, Pub and Restaurant in Ballinrobe which has proved a popular haunt since the business reopened last week.
It’s Friday morning in the Bowers Café, Pub and Restaurant in Ballinrobe’s Abbey Street, which is five days into re-opening.
Regulars Tommie and Pat McGovern, Billy Burke and Mark Fitzgerald arrive in for their morning cuppa’, served with the usual side-order of gossip, slagging and chat about topics ranging from ‘dodgy boxes’ to musicals to cycling and everything in between.
A simple pleasure not enjoyed since the beginning of March, but one that has been sorely missed by this tight-knit club, even if it means sitting a metre apart.
One that has missed the daily exchange of news, views and pulling of legs is proprietor Ciaran Ferriter.
Since re-opening on Monday, business has been ‘gentle’ for the Roundfort native, who operates the pub and restaurant with his wife Marguerite.
“People are dipping their toes in the water,” Ciaran told The Mayo News. “A lot of elderly people are out that just wanted to come out and have dinner and get out of their closed environment.”
Having renovated what was McGreal’s Pub last year, Ciaran has made modifications to the establishment to maximise hygiene and social distancing.
Upon entering the spacious and fresh-looking premises, customers must sanitize their hands before filling out a sign-in sheet for contact-tracing purposes.
Tables have been spaced two metres apart, while three snugs have been formed by a newly-constructed mobile partition.
With physical distancing in place, the beer garden at the side of premises has proved to be a godsend for the restaurant.
Under a weather-proof canopy, customers can enjoy their coffee, lunch or dinner in a safe, outdoor setting.
While Ciaran had planned to make full use of it during the mild summer weather, it has proved to be an enormous asset for the tail end of a pandemic.
“The beer garden has been a huge draw for the light bites, coffees, wraps, baps and sandwiches. It’s definitely become a social hub,” he says.
“The fact that it’s covered, there’s people having breakfast, lunch and dinner in the beer garden. There’s people meeting up for coffees, they’re a metre apart because of the large tables we have. It’s been a massive help, I can’t stress that enough.”
While providing a hospitable atmosphere in such circumstances can be challenging, Ciaran says customers have been very co-operative and are happy to enjoy the pleasure of eating out once again.
“They’ve enjoyed themselves immensely. It has been building in the media for three-and-a-half months that this was the way things were going to be.
“From the moment people came in Monday people accepted it that it wouldn’t be the way it was. They accept that they have to be responsible for their safety and our own safety.”
He says that the controversial 105-minute rule has been self-enforced by customers since re-opening.
“We haven’t had to tell anyone their 105 minutes was up. No one has refused to give us details because they know it’s for their own safety.”
While business has been steady, Ciaran doesn’t foresee a return to full normality for a long time to come.
“It’s never going to be free-flowing like it was one time until there’s a vaccine found,” he says.
“We’re confident that we can maintain some level of stability, but long-term there’s no hospitality or restaurant business that can guarantee that they’ll be back to where they were. Every place is going to have to accept that there will be customers that will never return to the doors because of this.
“[It’s all about] confidence and common sense The confidence will come if common sense is applied. Confidence is definitely building.”