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Dermot Kelly, owner of The Shannon Springs Hotel and chairman of the Shannon Region of the IHF, who has had to temporarily close the premises because of staff levels due to Covid. Photograph by John Kelly

Unhappy New Year for Clare hotel as Covid takes toll

IT certainly hasn’t been the happiest of New Years at the Shannon Springs Hotel, with the prevalence of Covid-19 forcing closures and reductions in service since Christmas

Speaking to The Clare Champion, co-owner Dermot Kelly said that the prevalence of the Omicron variant meant there were few options other than to scale back.

“We did everything in our power to keep going but at the end of the day the safety of our team and our customers was most important. This particular variant seems to be really highly transmissible. Before Christmas Eve we had kind of said we wouldn’t open on the 26th and the 27th because they’d be too big, really and truly.

“As it transpired we didn’t get to reopen until January 3 for accommodation and we’re not open to the public this coming week. We’re going to start doing take away food from this Thursday evening, we’ll have a certain amount of our team back who’ll be able to help us with that.”

There are 75 people employed at the hotel. Closing in the aftermath of Christmas Day is very disappointing from a business perspective.

“For us to lose that week at Christmas is a huge blow, and it’s the second year in a row. We had a lot of people booked to stay between Christmas and the New Year and we had no choice but to ring them and to cancel. Some of them were okay about it and understood the situation, but some didn’t and were very disappointed.”

If they had stayed open there would have been a chance of many more people being affected again, he observed.

“Not everyone got it on our own side of it, we had an awful lot of close contacts, but what’s to say you couldn’t get wiped out again next week? You hear of a lot of people who are isolating and it’s rampant. I’m fortunate, I’ve escaped, but not everyone has.”

The pandemic has meant a long series of hits for the hospitality sector, and he said that it is causing severe problems.

“You’re trying to navigate your way through this. January is generally a quiet month but now we’re going into a quiet month on the back of a hard December. You’re hoping that things will come back to normal. The signs are that by March it will have levelled out, and you really hope that’s true, that there isn’t another new variant mutating.

“For a lot of businesses it’s a huge struggle, not just the hotels, bars and restaurants, we’re all in the same boat and it’s detrimental. You’re trying to keep your team intact and keep the confidence in them. A lot of people have changed industry, we’ve been fortunate to retain our team, but others haven’t. People have gotten out of hospitality because it seems to be the first sector impacted each time.”

He said that not everyone who should be isolating is doing so, inevitably resulting in wider transmission of Covid.

“You have the vaccine pass, but you don’t know if the ones who are supposed to be isolating are doing it or not. We think that’s one of the ways we got caught out, that people were in who should have been isolating.”

He said the current wave is very highly transmissible, but it is important to remain hopeful. “You have to remain positive and keep going, you just have to, for the business and the team and all the families affected.”

The Tea and Tones restaurant and the Goalpost Bar have also closed due to the prevalence of Covid at this time.

One in every 84 people living in the Shannon Municipal District were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the period between December 7 and December 20, but when more recent figures become available they will surely show an even worse situation.

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.