As publicans, restaurateurs, and the public eagerly await the reopening of indoor dining tomorrow, a west Cork town has been effectively closed for business by an outbreak of Covid-19.
Crookhaven was facing into what should have been its busiest week of the year as tourists flock to the scenic coastal town and indoor hospitality was to reopen.
But after a staff member of the popular O’Sullivan’s Bar tested positive for Covid-19 the premises had to close abruptly on Saturday along with its adjacent shop. Nottage's bar and restaurant, owned by the same family, also had to close next door.
“The timing of this could not possibly be worse,” Diarmuid O’Sullivan, owner of O'Sullivan's Bar and Nottage's bar and restaurant said.
“This is the busiest week of the year and we’re facing into what should be the busiest fortnight of the year with the best weather we’ve ever had,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“We had an emergency safety plan in place so we knew we had to close immediately.”
Ahead of tomorrow's return to indoor dining, HSE chief Paul Reid asked the public to embrace it safely and make it work.
Padraig Cribben from the Vintners' Federation is appealing to the public to follow the rules tomorrow.
He said that with outdoor dining publicans and restaurateurs have had to deal with a small number of people who don't want to wear masks or who are looking to create an issue.
"Publicans over many years have been used to deal with tricky situations but we would ask people to make life as easy as possible for those who are trying to get back to work again," said Mr Cribben.
The only other bar and restaurant in the west Cork town, another popular business located nearby, called the Crookhaven Inn, also had to close on Saturday over Covid concerns.
“Unfortunately we will have to close until further notice,” a post on the CrookHaven Inn’s Facebook page said.
“We have made this decision in order to ensure the highest care and safety of both our dedicated staff and valued customers.
“Hopefully it won’t be for long.”
Mr O’Sullivan said that news of the positive Covid test was a “devastating” blow but keeping people safe was now his main concern.
“Our priorities now are to keep our staff and community safe,” he said.
Pints had to be taken from people’s hands as the business was shut down immediately on Saturday when a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.
Most of his 35 staff members will now be out of work for at least 10 days, he said.
“We spent a year and half following every possible guideline and regulation.
“We have 8 to 10 staff fully vaccinated so the best-case scenario is that we’ll have one of our businesses open again next Thursday,” he said.
Offers of help have flooded in from the community, with people who worked at the pub 20 years ago volunteering to come back to help as they are fully vaccinated.
“People have been genuinely supportive and have been offering to help,” Mr O'Sullivan said.
Manager Linda Kennedy said that many of the 36 people working in O'Sullivan's and Nottage's have already had PCR tests and others were waiting for test centres to reopen Monday.
Some negative results have been returned already and no more positive tests have been detected so far.
“Once we know that the village and our staff are healthy we will breathe again and make sure that the business will survive,” Ms Kennedy said.