25 Jan 2022

Welcome Back! Business brisk in Offaly as outdoor dining and drinking returns

THE weather couldn't have been better for the reopening of outdoor dining and drinking on Bank Holiday Monday.

There was a lovely atmosphere around Tullamore as people soaked up the ambiance and took the opportunity to meet up for a chat, coffee or a drink outside of the many restaurants and pubs.

It was a day to celebrate after the dreariness of the long lockdown when all that was available was a take away.

Eugene Kelly was delighted with how it all went. ''It was great. My regulars were mad to get out and have a chat, it was great to see them all. It wouldn't have suited if the weather was bad but it just fell right for us.''

Eugene's was closed for 15 months and was only allowed to open for 16 days during that time. ''It's been very tough, the second lockdown was definitely the hardest. It was really great to be back.'' During the lockdown, Eugene painted, and decorated the pub including varnishing the floors. ''I am looking forward to July 5 when the pub can fully reopen.''

The Bridge House Hotel had an extremely busy weekend. ''It was excellent and it was lovely to have people back again,'' said Manager Barry Kilroy. ''We had full occupancy. Our outdoor dining areas were also very busy and are doing well again today (Tuesday)'' he said.

The hotel was able to retain 90% of its staff as it was open for essential workers during the lockdown. Weddings are also being booked in and there is a busy summer ahead for Barry and all the staff.

The Central Hotel on Main Street, was also a hive of activity. General manager Brian Reynolds described it as ''crazy''. The hotel was fully booked out on Sunday night and only a few rooms were available on Saturday night.

''All our in-house guests dined with us which was great. At breakfast time, guests picked a time to come down to breakfast in the mornings and each had a 45 minute slot.''

Brian says the hotel held on to most of its staff and he hopes to bring them all back when the hotel is fully back up and running.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning people were still taking advantage of outdoor dining. Amy Drea and her mother Mandy Cronly were having a coffee and chat outside the Riverside Cafe on Main Street. ''It's great to see people out in the air and socialising,'' said Amy.

''You would go stir crazy. It's nice to be able to sit down and chat and see people again and not be stuck at home all the time.'' said Mandy.

Amy, who works in Accessible Counselling on Main Street, was used to just running into a filling station to pick up a coffee to go, but last Monday morning she was able to enjoy her break by sitting under an umbrella and at a table.

For Rachel and Hazel Cobb it was a moment to savor. ''It's lovely to get out and bring a bit of social life to the town,'' said Rachel. ''It's lovely to have a chat over a cup of coffee, that's the thing I missed most of all,'' said Hazel.

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