Bracing for a challenging time

Features

Analysis
Anton McNulty

Up to last week, Castlebar taxi driver Paddy McGovern believed he was running at 95 percent of his pre-Covid business. Now he is worried another year’s Christmas trade will be lost.
Shortly after the Government announced that closing time for all licensed trade will be brought forward to 12 midnight, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan advised against the hosting of company Christmas parties.
Even if no further restrictions are put in place before Christmas, Paddy believes that companies will take Dr Holohan’s advice and cancel any Christmas party for this year.
“The Christmas trade is the cream of the year. It covers your insurance and expenses for the year nearly. You’ll be going seven days a week, as hard as you can go,” he told The Mayo News.
Now the outlook for the festive season is bleak. “I have heard of a few companies which have cancelled their office Christmas party already, and I can guarantee more will follow,” he said.

‘I am afraid of my life’
Since nightclubs reopened at the start of October, McGovern has been working until close to 4am, bringing people home. Now, with everything closed at 12 midnight, he fears he will be lucky to have an hour’s trade before calling it a night.
“We will lose 70 percent of our trade basically because of the new restrictions. We won’t have the business.
“The problem is the pubs will all close at 12, and everyone is out together. You have only an hour’s trade and it’s gone. It will have a savage impact on us.
“I was stunned to hear it, and the danger is it will get worse. My fear is they will do the same as last year and close us down for Christmas. I am afraid of my life. They did the same as last year. They warned and forewarned and dropped hints, and I’m afraid of my life that I will be out of business basically for Christmas,” he fears.

Different routine
Last year, pubs were ordered to close on Christmas Eve, and it was July before customers were allowed to drink indoors again.
Joe O’Malley of Cosy Joe’s late-bar in Westport hopes history will not repeat itself. However, he accepts that this Christmas, publicans and the public will have to adapt to the new closing times.
“We all have to work together on this. If a couple or a group of four or five [want to] have a few drinks, they will have to get a place which is monitored right and they feel comfortable in – and that will be Christmas for them I’m afraid.
“Hopefully it won’t ruin Christmas, I think people will have to get into the routine of coming out a little earlier and home earlier. It will 100 percent affect the industry, but we are hoping we will get some sort of token business if people start coming out and bring their night forward a little earlier.
“I would see the late bars trying to salvage some sort of business and bringing DJs in and starting the music early. Usually the place would be kicking off at half ten or 11 o’clock, but now you will only have an hour of trading, so it’s not worth a lot to you. So we will have to get them in early.
“You won’t have the crowds at the same volumes but hopefully it won’t dampen Christmas. We’ll try to keep the Christmas cheer and atmosphere in the pubs and in the town. I think it will once the lights come on. Hopefully people will come out that bit earlier and support their local businesses.”

Clarity and notice
Like Paddy McGovern, Joe was hoping for a busy Christmas to make up for the losses from last year. He fears that further restrictions would have serious consequences for the pub business in 2022.
“Let’s face it, we need a good run of business. The supports are gone, and we don’t know if they will be brought back in again. The last two years has been an awful challenge for this business. There will be consequences going forward into 2022. I have been in Cosy Joe’s for the last 27 years, and you see business going up and down, but this has been one of the most challenging.
“It is changing all the time, one minute you have one set of rules you have to adhere to and you are running with it for a couple of weeks, and then it changes to something else. Change is happening every few months with this virus, and it’s challenging and hard on staff and management. They are at the coal face. But we have to get on with it.
“There is mixed messaging at times, and changes are very much last minute. It is very hard to implement [new regulations] straight away. You have to be on the ball. If there was more clarity and more lead-in time, it would be a lot easier for us.”