Publicans invest in food but fear it still won’t be enough, writes Eavan Murray
Desperate rural publicans are investing heavily in food services in a bid to save their businesses.
Others are facing the abyss of long-term closure, no income and possible financial ruin.
Brian Carr, who runs Sherry's pub in Clarinbridge, Co Galway, believes many rural pubs simply won't survive.
"We were closed down on March 12 and we initially thought it would be two weeks," he said. "Then things started to get worse and worse.
"Then talk started that pubs could open if they served food. So I reinvested in a full kitchen.
"I personally don't want to do food. I spent years running a pub and restaurant and wanted to move away from it when I took over here.
"But I got a woman on board and she has taken over the kitchen, and we are doing Thai food now.
"We opened last week. Otherwise, I would still be closed and have no income."
Mr Carr fears for the future of traditional Irish pubs which serve rural communities. "I personally don't think they are going to open the pubs at all this year," he added.
"The problem in the trade at the moment is the costs are staying the same but we have to limit the number of customers we have.
"I can't see any decrease in costs including insurance, Sky Sports, electricity, heating and that will kill so many pubs.
"Especially when you can go to a supermarket and get the drink for half price.
"There is so much drinking going on in Ireland now outside the pubs that it would almost be safer to open them.
"At least they will be supervised."
Damian O'Looney runs Jordan's Bar, the only pub in the village of Ballinderreen, Co Galway.
He describes the past five months as "a nightmare".
"I have had no income for five months, I have a young family and to find out five days before we were supposed to open is not good enough," he said.
"We were in total shock with Wednesday's announcement.
"I told my staff we were going back to work and they had to organise childcare. Then they heard on the news their jobs weren't there.
"We ordered stock and were more or less ready to go. It's very stressful.
"I do wonder are Government looking at it rationally. If they opened all the bars and restaurants at the same time, there wouldn't be so much pressure or crowding in individual places.
"People would be distributed more evenly.
"There wouldn't be huge parties in houses with absolutely no social distancing.
"If given a chance to open and successfully manage social distancing, we could do it. People really need rural pubs now there has been so much taken off them.
"I am the only pub in Ballinderreen, I'm here four years now and I have built up a brilliant relationship with the locals.
"They have been so supportive and I feel I owe it to them to try my best to survive and give them back their pub.
"A lot of elderly people live on their own and they come down in the evening for a chat and now they have nowhere to go.
"The village is closed down.
"We have done a lot of renovations to the pub over the past few months and invested money to make it right - money we don't have.
"We are going to have to invest in food. It's the only way I can manage in the future."
Mary Murray's pub Green's in Kinvara, Co Galway, has been in her family since 1865.
A haunt of music legend John Prine, Green's is famed for its traditional music sessions.
But Ms Murray doesn't see a way that she can reopen anytime soon.
"With our pub now it is so small, even if we were allowed to open we wouldn't be able to do it," she explained. "You can't social distance in our place, everyone is chatting and talking and mixing together.
"To social distance at one metre, we could just have 10 people. But if it's two metres, it would be five.
"And if I had 10 people inside and other people were coming to the door, and I couldn't let them in, I would find that very difficult, because we know all our customers so well."
She had no idea this would be the result when she was forced to close the doors four months ago.
"We closed in March and thought we would be open again in a few weeks. I don't think anyone could have foreseen anything so indefinite.
"But we have to put our faith in the experts, and they want everyone to be safe.
"It does make me sad. It is such a change for us.
"We miss people coming in and having a laugh and music, the things you take for granted really.
"We are a family pub in that it's only us who work here.
"I feel for other pubs that have staff and overheads, including rent. It would be so hard for them.
"I won't be able to open until there is no social distancing. God knows when that will be."