'Heartening' as Limerick city centre re-opens after lockdown

Nick Rabbitts

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Nick Rabbitts

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nick.rabbitts@limerickleader.ie

'Heartening' as Limerick city centre re-opens after lockdown

Protection: Jean Tuohy, Savins

IT was a trickle rather than a deluge as Limerick re-opened for business this week with the first stage of the coronavirus restrictions eased.

Dozens ​of well-known shops in the city centre began to trade for the first time since late March on Monday morning, with hardware stores, electrical outlets and garden centres re-opening, subject to strict guidelines and social distancing.

While there were long queues to access stores on the edge of the city like Woodies B&Q, Harvey Norman and Homebase, it was a quieter affair in the centre.

However, the days to come will tell a tale, with yet warmer weather expected to greet Limerick, while the popular Milk Market will also re-open on Saturday morning.

Chamber chief executive Dee Ryan said , there has been an increase in traffic entering the city centre, and has praised the local business community for getting behind some of the shops which did begin trading again.

“It’s really heartening to hear stories from business owners they are getting increased support. If there are a number of silver linings to this pandemic, one of them is I think we have a new found appreciation of our local suppliers and our communities. We've probably had a moment to pause, reflect and see who is our community, and support each other,” she told the Limerick Leader, “It's lovely that as businesses are re-opening, they are receiving that support in a very safe way.”

In the city centre this Monday and Tuesday, there were scenes akin to reunions, as regular customers returned to some of their favourite stores for the first time in months.

Speaking outside Joe McKenna’s DIY shop in Parnell Street, Phil Kinsella said: “It’s great he’s back open. It’s grand for the husband. I think he’s inside there getting some turpentine. He’s planning to paint two doors I think!”

Jean Tuohy of Savins electrical shop in O’Connell Street said while the shop was closed​ due to the devastating disease, it was obvious its customers were missing it: “We kept the phone lines open when we were closed, and we had great conversations, which was special. It’s great to be back, it’s been a long few weeks though,” she said.

Precautions were taken at Fitzgerald Electrical, with proprietor John Fitzgerald installing a hot-water basin at the front door.

Many coffee shops re-opened to offer take-away only. Barry Flavin, of the Habit Coffee Shop in O’Connell Street, was forced to close almost as soon as he’d opened due to Covid-19.

“It was a tough thing for a business just starting out. But we’ve a great customer base built up in a short period, and we’re happy to be able to be back to serve them. People are coming in for a coffee and a chat and it’s nice,” he said.

Paint and DIY was the order of the day out on the Ennis Road as huge crowds gathered from early on outside Woodies, which opened early at 8am on Monday.

Sinead O’Dwyer, Corbally, says she’s spent much of lockdown with a paintbrush in her hand.

Speaking after picking up her shopping, former councillor Eleanor Goodison, Mayorstone added: “We’ve seen the house torn apart as we’ve nothing else to do! We wanted to get stuck in and get back to some form of normality.”

The next big date for retailers to re-open will come on Monday, June 29,  when the majority of shops in the city centre begin trading again.