FEATURE: Our customers are the 'heart of the town' - Birr firmly focused on survival

Karen O'Grady


Karen O'Grady



FEATURE:  Our customers are the 'heart of the town'  - Birr firmly focused on survival

The sign of 'Hope' that is located in the Mill Island, Birr

Like most towns in the midlands, Birr town faces a difficult economic path after Covid-19 but many businesses owners remain optimistic and hopeful for the future.

As part of the Tribune's 'Birr Fights Back' feature, we spoke to a number of local businesses to see how they have adapted to these challenging times in unprecedented circumstances.

Tom, from Barbers 21, along Main Street, said the business has “adapted as best we can and feel we have our shop set up in the safest way possible for both the clients and ourselves”.

With a screen between the chairs, masks are worn by the staff at all times in the shop and hand sanitiser is mounted on the wall as you enter the shop while both the chair and all surfaces are disinfected after every haircut.

Located in Market Square, Sanjay, from Sanjay's Kitchen believes the “mood is definitely lifted” after opening since lockdown. “It's nice to see familiar faces and return to a familiar routine, he enthused. Obviously, he said business has been slightly down due to the pandemic and sit-ins the restaurants are through bookings only. “Another difficulty we faced was that our staff are from India Bangladesh and because of Covid-19, they are unable to return to Ireland,” he outlined.

The restaurant has implemented a number of measures after lockdown to deal with this pandemic including that all staff are required to wear either face shields or masks, worktops are sanitized as well as tables and chairs after customer use and a glass barrier was installed at the main counter for further protection.

There is a system of keeping one reserved table that's not in use between customers, to adhere to social distancing and a new system of accessing the food and wine menu through a QR code that is scanned by any phone camera. “This is to minimise contact between staff and customers,” Sanjay explained.

“We have placed hand sanitizers in frequently used areas for customer use. Such areas include the counter where takeaways are collected and at the main door where customers enter the premises.

We have a strict system in place for employees to sanitise their hands before and after attending to customers at their tables. Payment is contactless – taken through card or over the phone. Sit-ins are strictly taken through bookings.”

Having reopened, Jerros, along Main Street, have put in a number of procedures to ensure customer and staff safety. They completed Covid-19 training with the Offaly Enterprise Board. “Within the shop, there is a protective screen around the counter and a sanitizing station just inside the door and gloves for everyone. People can try on the clothing and we are steaming each item after. Then, we leave the items off the shop floor for 24 hours. We have also gone online at jerros boutique.ie.”

The store is currently open three days per week but it is hoped to increase this back up to six days while there is a sale in-store. “Our regular customers are so lovely and are helping us to fight back and get moving again. They are the heart of the town. There is so much goodwill here. I am sure that we will survive 2020,” she said.

At the Red Apple Cafe, the past few weeks have been full of changes for everyone. Remona said: “ We’ve been getting used to serving customers with masks or face shields and we’ve also upped our hygiene work ethic to an extremely high standard. "
"Unfortunately we have had to lose some seating as well, this can be up to 50% if it’s raining and as we are such a cosy cafe already this in itself has had a huge impact."
“It breaks my heart to tell people we are full when nothing could be further from the truth during normal times. We are missing what this time of year brings to the town of Birr and the buzz of activity that would be vintage week. It’s very strange times.”
“I’m hoping that we are heading in the right direction and that the day we can resume with full seating and opening hours is not to far away. Thanks to all of our customers old and new.”