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Declan Kelly, general manager of Knox's Bar and Restaurant, Ennis, with owner Michael Dennehy, preparing the outside seating for outside opening at 1pm on Monday. Photograph by John Kelly

Proper order as Banner hospitality comes back

MONDAY saw the return of outdoor drinking and dining, with hundreds of people taking the chance to return to Clare’s bar and restaurants.
Since then the Abbey Street car park in Ennis saw large numbers gathering in specially assembled areas linked to the various licensed premises in the area.
General manager of Knox’s Declan Kelly said that the reopening has gone well, and the bar/restaurant has done quite a lot of business.
“It’s been very good, people have been enjoying it and behaving themselves. There has been no drama, it’s been very good to be honest.
“We’ve been tipping away. We were very busy on Monday as it was the first day. Last night (Tuesday) we filled all our tables out the back, which was great. We were very happy with that, we weren’t expecting it as such. There’s a good oul buzz around it, people are looking to come back out and socialise.”
One thing about outdoor drinking and dining in Clare is that the weather is far from guaranteed, but he’s hopeful it will be conducive this weekend.
“I think the weather is coming good, it’s not great today but after this it’s supposed to get good. I’d say we’ll have a great weekend. And it’s lovely, there are three or four premises here that have outdoor areas out the back, and there’s lovely social interaction.
“It looks good as well, there was a bit of effort put in to make it look nice.”
The sun hits the car park area in the evenings, so he’s hopeful it’ll be shining on evening drinkers in the coming days.
“A lot of people have said to me that it’s like being on a holiday, being outside there if there’s no rain.”
Knox’s was open for takeaways at weekends, but he is very pleased to be seeing more customers once again.
“This is a lot more social, you get to meet people you haven’t seen in a long time, it’s great.”
In Feakle, publican Gary Pepper said that there had been a bit of a chill late on Monday evening, which hadn’t helped trade.
“We got on fine, but the weather wasn’t overly conducive to outdoor stuff. As the evening wore on it got much colder and we suffered the consequences as a result. But it was good, people were delighted to be back sure, they are refreshed again.”
He said that he had rarely seen many of his customers since late last year.
“I wouldn’t have seen them since Christmas. Christmas Eve at 3pm was when we closed down. Other than seeing them in the streets I wouldn’t have met a lot of them.
“Now we have been doing takeaway food for the last two months, so that side of it was tipping away nicely and gently. But yesterday was the first day for the outside dining.”
Like a lot of people Gary re-evaluated some things during the pandemic and he will have a greater life balance in the future.
From now on he will be closed on a Tuesday and on the other days he is opening at 1pm, with last orders at 8.30pm.
Generally very small businesses, pubs typically have long and unsocial hours, and it was only when Covid-19 arrived Gary saw another side to life.
“The last three or four months was a nice break for us. Now, we have been back open for takeaway food since the early days of March, but we had two full months when we were just totally closed for the first time in our lives and it was a nice experience after 46 years in it.
“It was nice to get the break and going forward we’re never going to do the hours that we did before. We used to open at 10 in the morning and finish at 11.30 in the night.
“In the future we’ll start at 1pm, we can’t do everything and we’ve refined the hours a bit.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.