Alan Keegan, Michael Cooney, Alex Krol, Alexandrea Brady and David Smith back to work at Cooney’s Hotel, Ballymahon Pictures: Shelley Corcoran
“It’s great to be back.”
The simple, yet animated words of Mike Cooney as he opened the doors of his Ballymahon hotel for the first time in almost three months on Monday.
Licenced premises, like the one owned by the south Longford entrepreneur, enjoyed their first taste of business this week as the country continued its exit from Covid-19 enforced restrictions.
Even as the Leader appraoched its entrance, the evidence of weeks of painstaking behind the scenes works were evident.
A foot stop sensor door opening greeted our entry while a staff member took our name and details before we were shown inside a new socially distant interior.
“We probably spent several thousand euro on getting it back right because we are very cautious about social distancing and having everything 100 per cent right particularly for the health of the staff and ourselves and customers,” added Mike.
“It’s the complete package, everybody needs to feel safe coming into the place.”
For patrons, it was an equally momentous day as several groups could be seen enjoying an altogether new, yet refreshingly auspicious customer experience.
Though a tad rueful of being denied the opportunity to sit at the bar, for Robbie and Julie, the occasion was one which had been a long time coming.
“It’s a great thing for us to get out of the house again,” said Robbie.
“For the likes of Mike too who is a great host, we get great food here and it’s nice to come out rather than be at home.
“Mike has done a great job from the jacks down to the bar, it’s all safety and it’s all done right.
“Look at the people in here, this is great to see.”
A few tables down and certainly more than the stipulated two metres away, Westmeath County Councillor Johnny Penrose and Eamon Slevin could be seen in quiet conversation.
“Oh absolutely,” commented Johnny when asked about how positive it was to see businesses doing what they do best.
“It’s great to see businesses up and running again.
It’s very important for everyone and for the town of Ballymahon and when you see a place like this that is well run and well laid out that’s all that counts.”
Covid-19 might be here to stay for the forseeable, but so too it would seem is the resilience and buoyancy among Longford’s commercial and consuming public.