Mixed reactions from Longford businesses about Christmas retailing

"Investment needs to be put in place now so that we can ensure that businesses in Co Longford are never effected like this again," said Chamber of Commerce President Seamus Butler this week after a very difficult 10 days for local businesses because of the adverse weather, treacherous road conditions and no water supply.

"Investment needs to be put in place now so that we can ensure that businesses in Co Longford are never effected like this again," said Chamber of Commerce President Seamus Butler this week after a very difficult 10 days for local businesses because of the adverse weather, treacherous road conditions and no water supply.

"The service industry has been hit the hardest - the bars, restaurants and hairdressers - and people are paying water rates but not getting the returns.

"Pipes are not deep enough in the ground in new estates and it seems to me that lessons were not learned from last January. Investment needs to be put in place or else alternative methods of water supply will need to be explored, like water harvesting for example."

The Purple Onion in Tarmonbarry faced an uncertain Christmas with much of its bookings cancelled in the run up to the festive season because of the weather conditions. Water supply to the business was constant however, despite the fact that other businesses in the village were without water over Christmas.

Michael Earley, MJ Earley's, Longford town said that the weather coupled with frozen pipes and no water resulted in an "adverse effect" on his business.

"People weren't able to get into town in the lead up to Christmas because of the bad weather," he said adding that business "picked up slightly" at the beginning of last week because shoppers were able to travel into town.

"A lot of business people in the town were affected badly, so we are like everyone else. At the moment I'm trying to repair burst pipes."

In Granard Carmel Fay, Fay's Pub said that the weather prevented people from going out and that she had no water at the bar for almost a week. "Between the weather and the water, business was bad," she explained.

"We didn't open the pub until 5pm each evening. We were carrying water to wash glasses and to service the toilets. We had no ice either, although Liz in the hotel very kindly supplied us with ice. It has been horrendous. I had several parties cancelled and the whole thing has been a nightmare."

One good news story to emerge from all the mayhem was that of Hair Square in Longford town. Colette Reynolds and her team were extremely busy in the run up to Christmas and in the business days following the festive season because the premises was one of the few that had a water supply in Longford town.

"We have been very, very lucky," she explained adding that businesses throughout the town "had problems from start to finish" and that she had been "blessed".

"Our business here increased because other hairdressers didn't have water at all. Many of the customers didn't have water in their houses, so they came out to get their hair done."

Other businesses in Longford town reported a last minute surge in shoppers in the two days prior to Chirstmas Day.

" A lot of people who had planned to travel to Athlone or Dublin simply couldn't make the journey so they had to shop closer to home," one retailer said, adding that "maybe the shop local message is hitting home after all".

In Edgeworthstown, Frank Kilbride, Park House Hotel was downbeat.

"I cancelled the ballroom event on Stephen's night," he said. "I had no water for toilets or to wash glasses. I have a crew here now trying to sort things out and I have back up tanks of water which are now beginning to thaw. In the early days of Christmas I did no business here at all and to tell you the truth it has been the worst Christmas ever from a business point of view."

Mr Kilbride, who is also a county councillor, paid tribute to the staff of Longford County Council whom he said had worked around the clock to grit roads and supply the worst effected areas with water.