AS part of the latest in a series of gradual lockdown easing restrictions, hospitality venues across Tyrone and the rest of the North will be allowed to welcome guests indoors for the first time in many months from Monday.
The NI Executive gave the final go-ahead on Thursday for venues to reopen, despite some concerns being raised about the spread of the Indian variant of Covid-19.
It’s been a long, hard road for those in the industry and the latest easing of restrictions will be a welcome boost for many – particularly those who have been unable to open up on an outdoor basis in recent weeks.
Broderick’s Bar in Omagh will have been closed for 220 days by the time it will open its doors next week, and owner Colm Broderick is hoping that the worst of the Covid-19 restrictions are over.
“It’s been a long road, we haven’t operated now since October 16, so it’s been a hard struggle looking over the bar counter and seeing just a store room and wine bottles,” Colm said.
“We are busy this week trying to rejig the business and turn everything back into a public bar again and welcoming people back in from Monday.
“We are thrilled to be able to open our doors and do that and to welcome customers, even though we are restricted in numbers.
“We don’t want another lockdown or need another lockdown, with the rollout of the vaccination programme hopefully there will be no further spikes.”
Colm, who is also the president of the Omagh Chamber of Commerce, said the reopening of indoor hospitality venues will provide another boost to the recovery of the high street in the town.
“Monday will be a good day for Omagh on the road to business recovery.
“It will be good to rejoin the likes of outdoor hospitality and retail which opened on April 30.
“Speaking with other businesses and Chamber members, we are heartened to see that people are travelling to Omagh to do their shopping and for their day out and spending their money.
“It’s really great to have a few new businesses open up in the town centre and to see that entrepreneurship in these times. It’s fantastic that there is renewed commercial life on the high street.
“Now from next week, with a wee bit of nightlife back, it will give the town another lift, although numbers will be restricted and it will be table service only.”
Pubs and restaurants opening indoors will be subject to a number of mitigations, including a maximum of six people to a table with table service only. However, the restrictions on the number of households customers can be from is to be removed.
The businessman added that while further restrictions have made it more difficult to operate, it’s still important to keep customers and staff safe.
“We are a very sociable nation here, we do like to go out and converse. It will be difficult to manage this, there’s no doubt about it.
“We will just run the business right for the health and safety of staff and customers, that is paramount to us.
“We could be operating at around 40 per-cent of capacity, but that 40 per-cent is better than nothing in my view.
“The days of two deep to a counter waiting for a drink are gone for now. I would hope that they would return in the not-too-distant future, but in the interim period it is strictly table service.”