Longford publican Niamh Lee, pictured with Michael and Mary Begley at Begley’s Bar, Killoe, ahead of Thursday’s ‘Open for Business’ programme at 7pm on RTÉ One television
Longford bar owner Niamh Lee will highlight how the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated pubs in Thursday’s ‘Open for Business’ programme at 7pm on RTÉ One television.
A seventh generation Begley, Niamh owns her family bar, Begley’s in Killoe. She voluntarily closed her doors on March 15, 2020. From being open seven days a week to turning the lights off for 28 weeks was very hard.
Niamh told the Leader, “All publicans fully understand the seriousness of this virus but Covid has decimated pubs across the country. We have only traded 16 days since March 15 of last year. And we took it upon ourselves to close our doors before the government directed us to.
“It was a heartbreaking decision but necessary and was the right thing to do for ourselves, our families, staff and community. It has been a very challenging 13 months but we will get there eventually.”
Availing of the Fáilte Ireland restart grant Niamh reopened on September 21. Welcoming her customers back was a joy. Begley’s is more than a bar, it brings the older community together. The second closing at the beginning of October was heartbreaking.
Temporarily closed since then Niamh is receiving the support via the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme. She has to remain hopeful and like all publicans, Niamh wants a roadmap to reopening.
Niamh said the government supports were fine to tide publicans over in the earlier part of the pandemic but by no means sufficient for a prolonged closure.
“A closed business still has bills to pay,” she pointed out.
Niamh added, “The pub is such an integral part of any community. We are so much more than just a pub! Along with the social aspect we also hold many fundraising events and sponsorships.
“I’m keeping optimistic that the government will see sense and let us safely reopen perhaps in August. It’s important to have hope for the future and viability of the traditional pub. Hope is the one thing that keeps us all going.”
Niamh acknowledged that the reopening of pubs relies on a speedy vaccine rollout and hospital / ICU numbers and mortality rate to fall.
She concluded, “There have already been leaks about reopening outdoors first but it seems the great divide continues with the traditional non food pubs being left behind. Both the VFI and LVA are demanding that we #opentogether - a campaign to get all in hospitality reopened together. We offer a safe, controlled, regulated and fully Covid compliant premises.”
* Open for Business is on RTÉ One at 7pm on Thursday nights from April 29, presented by Ella McSweeney and Richard Curran.