‘What we need is clarity, when will it finish?’: Jobs at risk as businesses get ready to close

Businesses tell Liz Dunphy and Ryan O’Rourke they will face more hardship with a second closure
‘What we need is clarity, when will it finish?’: Jobs at risk as businesses get ready to close

JJ Bowles Limerick owner Aengus D'Arcy.

They had a brief glimmer of hope when Covid-19 figures began to fall just a couple of months ago. Now, though, whole sectors of the economy are braced for a return of shut-up premises, laid-off staff, and no income to pay off mounting bills. Here a number of business owners outline what a return to closures means to them.

Retail 

There are warnings 60,000 retail jobs could be lost with another closure, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Nonetheless, Richard Jordan, owner and manager at Amari shoe store in Cork, remains upbeat.

“People have shown great support since the last lockdown, shopping local is in Cork’s DNA," he said. “We’re working on our website which should be live in the next week and that will be an integral part of our business going forward.

“But the uncertainty now is worrying. November and December, the Christmas trade, is pivotal to all retailers.” 

Retail Excellence called on Government to class all retail as essential under a more stringent lockdown.

However, Mr Jordan believes that Government should have introduced Level 5 restrictions when Nphet suggested them two weeks ago, a short, sharp shock so businesses could stay open in the run-up to Christmas.

“I’d prefer quicker, more decisive action and clearer communications. Uncertainty really impacts consumer confidence.” 

Health and Beauty 

Paula Curtis sat at home in tears as she waited for the Government to announce whether it would close her business, Chair hair salon in Cork city.

Paula Curtis, owner of the Chair salon on George's Quay
Paula Curtis, owner of the Chair salon on George's Quay

The salon has been Paula’s baby and her stylists have become her second family. She has already had to let two of them go.

“In March, I was just thinking that I’d finally made it” she said. “I had a successful salon, money in the bank, a great team of stylists and my teaching diploma. Now, I’m wondering if I’ll even be able to reopen. I’ve been looking at applying for an Amazon customer service job today just to keep some money coming in.” It cost “a lot” to reopen Chair after the first lockdown, erecting perspex screens between each chair and washing basin, using medical grade disinfectant to clean everything between each client and dropping from eight clients at a time to just three to ensure that there was ample space for social distancing.

“I feel like we’re being hit really hard yet this is one of the safest environments,” Ms Curtis said. “If you have a mask on, which we supply at the door, and you don’t touch your face, there is no way to transmit it. “ 

Pubs 

Aengus D'Arcy owner of JJ Bowles pub in Thomondgate, Limerick, will be one of thousands who will be forced to lock his doors once again under the new restrictions.

“We’re disappointed. We’ve only been open again for the last four weeks. The first two weeks, there was social distancing within the pub, and we rigidly adhered to that,” said Mr D’Arcy.

“And then the decision was made that there would be a maximum of 15 people outdoors, so we fit our 15 people out there and that quite well actually. Sales were down, but we said to ourselves, we want to stay as long as possible. Just for our own sanity and so our customers could come in and have a pint or two.” 

Hotels 

Ronan Branigan is the managing director of The George Hotel, The Savoy Hotel, and a number of restaurants across Limerick. He says he faces the heartbreaking task of letting people go once again.

 Savoy Hotel Limerick and the Savoy Group Managing Director Ronan Branigan .
Savoy Hotel Limerick and the Savoy Group Managing Director Ronan Branigan .

“This time last year, we had 300 staff employed. We tried to get most of those back across the summer, we had about 220 back. So it looks like we are going to be in the terrible position of laying off people again, albeit temporarily. But it’s not easy, to be having that conversation with people again. We understand how difficult it is for all of our staff and their families,” said Mr Branigan.

“What we need is clarity. When is it starting, when will it finish? Then hopefully we can get to a place where we can guarantee work and positions for people, especially coming up to Christmas,” he said.

Gyms 

Bobby Enright, Peak Performance Academy in Killarney, has questioned the reason gyms need to close.

“To be honest, it doesn't make sense whatsoever. When you look the gym industry, very few cases have come from it. From my standpoint as a business owner, to actually shut the doors again is an absolute disaster,” said Mr Enright.

“I have a referral system here with counsellors and doctors and they have been sending clients to us. Because they need that outlet, they need that sense of community. I feel this closure is going to be a massive problem for people's mental health. People are going to really struggle with this lockdown, and they will struggle more without an outlet like the gym.”

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