Joanne Riordan and John O’Connor of The Thatch Bar & Restaurant in Lisselton say they are devastated at having to close their business due to a combination of crippling costs and staff shortages.
The closure of the popular North Kerry establishment comes as a major blow to the locality.
Having taken over the premises in June 2017, the couple made the announcement on Tuesday after enduring several stressful months coming to terms with the realisation there was nothing they could do to save the business.
The closure brings into sharp focus the economic woes faced by businesses in the wake of COVID, and in the shadow of war in Ukraine.
“We’re just devastated. We’ve put our life and soul into this place. I’m from the area and its another blow for rural communities. But we just couldn’t go on like we were. I feel sorrier for our staff and having to tell them as they stuck with us through all this,” said Joanne.
She cited the perfect storm of rising costs because of the war in Ukraine, inflation, and being unable to source a chef, as the main contributors to the decision.
“Unfortunately, the industry is in dire straits. The trade during the week is non-existent, especially for rural places. You’re effectively a two, maybe three-day, business. You’re at a loss straight away. It’s all stress related and we couldn’t go on living like this,” said Joanne.
She added that since the Government’s COVID supports ceased, it quickly returned many in the hospitality industry to the reality of having to tackle rising inflation with a limited income.
Joanne insists people who would normally spend discretionary income socialising are now having to turn their spend towards meeting increasing household and utility bills.
“Unfortunately, there is less excess money for people to spend. We lost all the Government supports coming out of COVID. They kept us, and a lot of other businesses, going,” she said.
"When these supports are lost, you’re effectively back to normal. But the trade isn’t there; the staff isn’t there. Yet all the same overheads are still there,” said Joanne.
Another dilemma, according to Joanne, is that chefs forced to switch jobs during the pandemic have not returned to hospitality. Similarly, she insists many young people are no longer interested in working in hospitality.
“It’s actually shocking what’s happening at the moment. We have the best staff around, and the fact we’re still struggling is just unbelievable,” she said.
“I’m sad about this. It’s been a hard five years and a real slog. We’ve adapted the business every year. COVID wasn’t that bad to us as we had the space outside. We felt heading into this year that we would make it.
"But we didn’t know a war in Ukraine and high prices were on the way. People in Lisselton are just devastated to hear we’re closing, but we have no choice. No one foresaw any of this, it is out of our control.”