A table for two — two metres apart.
New seating arrangements and enhanced hygiene protocols are on the menu in this restaurant — an example of how small business owners are adapting to a new normal as Ireland tries to delay the spread of Covid-19.
Despite several businesses announcing temporary closures and staff layoffs, restaurateur Beth Haughton, who runs Dockland deli and restaurant in Cork’s docklands, said she has taken steps to keep the doors open and the ovens lit.
But she said: “We are in survival mode.
“Normally we can cater for up to 90 people but we’ve removed a lot of tables, spaced out the remainder to place our customers about two metres apart, and we’re down to a capacity of about 40 now.
“We love the hustle and bustle of the close tables but we have to try and get through this and just try to keep that ambiance.
Most customers seem delighted with the change but there are worrying times ahead.
Staff are also disinfecting the chairs, salt and pepper shakers, and door handles after each meal.
“They have been incredible. They’re an amazing team. They are the backbone of who we are,” said Ms Haughton.
“We had just come through the recession, we invested heavily in a complete re-brand, and we were just starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, and here we are now with the worst public health crisis in a generation.
“But people have been fantastic. Our regulars are coming out to support us and I’ve been getting messages asking how can people help, and that it’s been fantastic but next week will be different.”
Tomorrow we will be open as normal for lunch & dinner & smiles . Lots of room & lots of good food. #shoplocal #supportyourlocal #keepsmiling #WashYourHands #wearestrongertogether @LoveCork @yaycork @purecork @corkcitycentre pic.twitter.com/GwO5uHURyn— Dockland (@docklandcork) March 12, 2020
The restaurant will close for three days from Tuesday, and will reopen for daily lunch and weekend dinner only.
Ms Haughton said the restaurant sector began to feel the pinch last week but that bookings have been in free-fall since midweek.
A large US corporate which had booked out her entire restaurant cancelled on Wednesday, and a raft of lunch, dinner, wedding, and private function cancellations followed.
“We need to make sure that we survive this. Our landlord has been amazing but we need support on rates,” she said.
“Local authorities need to understand that for them to survive, small businesses have to survive — and we are in survival mode.
“Being in the restaurant business I have always been amazed at how few people wash their hands.
“Maybe this crisis will teach us some new habits that will last a few years.
“And maybe we might come out of this with a more caring society.”