NEW NORMAL John Nevin pictured at Nevin’s Newfield Inn in Tiernaur this week. High stools at the bar are one of the things conspicious by their absence in the well-known establishment due to social distancing requirements.
THERE has been a few noticeable changes to Nevin’s Newfield Inn since it reopened after almost four months. The perspex screening between the booths is one, the absence of high stools along the bar is another and most startling of all is the change in welcome from John Nevin himself.
“I would be known as a great man for shaking hands but I have had to hit that on the head,” he laughed when The Mayo News paid a visit last Wednesday. “I am more conscious now than I was. Initially I thought it was very strange but now you can’t do things like that anymore.”
Located on the main Newport to Mulranny Road, Nevin’s has been a byword for consistency and excellence for close to 20 years since John and his wife Anne turned the traditional bar and lounge in Tiernaur into one of the premier gastro pubs in the county.
You would rarely pass the pub without a good number of cars parked both sides of the N59 but Covid-19 meant business was suspended. Since Monday the cars are back and the pub is busy with customers when you walk in. However John says that so far it is nothing like what it would be for a normal July afternoon and numbers are down by as much as 50 percent.
“Locals and Irish tourists they would be the main footfall at the moment. All the foreign tourists are gone for this year. I think what we have to do is take it day by day and wait and see in the weeks and months ahead. On Monday we found it very slow and people were a bit apprehensive at first. I think it will take the weekend before see what the shape will look like,” he said.
John admitted that both he and the staff were somewhat apprehensive themselves on Monday but they soon got back into the swing of things as people started walking through the doors. At the moment it is all about getting people inside the door and making them feel as safe and comfortable as they can.
There is no shortage of hand sanitisers and there are designated exit and entry doors. There is plenty of room between the tables and new protocols means glasses have to be held from the bottom and not near the rim.
One of the striking features when you enter is the sight of all the staff kitted out in medical-style face visors. Chloe Sherlock, a member of the staff at Nevin’s, explained the visors are not as uncomfortable to wear as she thought they would be.
“I thought it would be uncomfortable but you forget it’s on to be honest. I could have an itch on my cheek and find myself going to touch my face without realising and it has stopped me which is good,” she said.
The staff received training from safety consultants before reopening and Chloe says that in terms of safety it is so far, so good.
“There are a lot of new rules to learn regarding the cleaning of tables correctly but you catch on very easily. The customers are being very cooperative as well. You definitely feel safe, there are sanitisers everywhere, you cannot say you forget because there is so much around the place. It has been busy but it is a safe busy and I never felt uncomfortable.”
Two of the customers who were impressed by the performance of the staff were Susan Lavin and Conor Horan from Swinford who were enjoying their first meal out since the restrictions were lifted. They admitted wondering how the pub would operate after seeing so many cars outside but they were pleasantly surprised.
“Once you walk through the door it is obvious they have it under control. We were welcomed at the door and it didn’t feel anyway uncomfortable,” said Susan while Conor added that it was obvious that the staff were ‘clued in to what they are doing’ and it was a ‘great experience so far’.
They also complimented the use of the visors instead of masks. “What is very nice about the visors is you can see what they are saying. With the mask it can be quite difficult to communicate but with the visors you still have the face to face communication and can understand what they are saying,” said Susan.
Day by day
With two happy customers John says that at the moment they are taking ‘baby-steps’ and trying to remain somewhat optimistic for the future.
“Hopefully it [business] will return but in the meantime we are going day by day and looking after your customer with service and ambiance but now the big one is safety. People are quite good by the way they abide by the rules and are knowledgable about Covid-19 and you have to take your hat off to them.
“You will see lots of changes in people’s habits but for the moment we have to do our job to the best we can and remain optimistic.”