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20/09/2021

Cup of cheer: A new dawn for hospitality as indoor access returns

Cup of cheer: A new dawn for hospitality as indoor access returns

Andrew Finn, who is preparing to open his coffee shop, the Brewery Coffee Co in Kilmallock in the next week PICTURE: BRENDAN GLEESON

Nick Rabbittsnick@limerickleader.ie

FOR the first time in 2021, pubs, cafes and restaurants in Limerick this week allowed customers to  sit in their premises as Covid-19 restrictions eased.

But the Department of Public Health Mid-West has appealed to people to “socialise responsibly” amid an increase of 449 new confirmed coronavirus cases locally in the last fortnight.

There were 45 new cases in Limerick on Sunday, which represented the highest rise in a month while a further 37 instances of the disease were also recorded across the city and county this Monday.

There are strict rules as to who can enter a premises under the regulations: customers will have to show photographic identification at the door, along with their Covid-19 certificate which would prove they’ve either been vaccinated or recovered from the virus.

The lead customer on each table is required to provide their name and phone number for contact tracing purposes. Two information sheets will be at the door – one for contact tracing and a second where they will tick a box to show all customers at each table have been checked for their vaccination or recovery status.

Staff will be posted at entrances to perform this task.

Kilmallock businessman Andrew Finn (pictured) was eligible to allow some customers indoors to dine this week at his coffee shop in the town’s former Murphy's Brewery.

But he’s decided to defer his re-opening for a few weeks to allow his staff to visit family in England with travel restrictions eased.

He’s deliberately not offered take-away or outdoor dining, because he believes his customers prefer the experience of actually sitting in the building.​

Asked what he’s most looking forward to about re-opening, he said: “The main thing will be just to see people back inside enjoying themselves. We have the new courthouse here, so when a case is on, we’d have solicitors coming and talking to clients and so on. It’s just nice to see people back around the town again.”

Andrew has bought what is arguably the most historic building in Kilmallock, and in the coming months, intends to open a remote working hub on site.

He says having to post a member of staff on the coffee shop door to log arrivals – as is stipulated in the reopening guidelines – could be difficult for him as a small business owner.

“You’d have one member of staff checking people and one serving coffee, and some days, you might only have 20 people in. So it wouldn’t really pay its way,” he said. One of the critics of the re-opening regulations is local TD Willie O’Dea.

He said people are nervous to present their vaccine certificates.

“It’s slow. It will take a while to get going. People are worried what happens if the cert doesn’t click with the computer, or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. It’s going to prove awkward, but let’s see how it works in the week, and if it’s too cumbersome, the government will need to act accordingly,” he said.

A further 10,195 people have received a Covid-19 vaccination in Limerick across the last week. It brings to 276,553 the number of people in the region who have had either a first or second inoculation.

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