18 May 2022

Bars and restaurants ready to embrace the ‘challenge’ of reopening

Dermot Friel of Friel's Bar & Restaurant outlines some of the measures they've had to take.

Bars and restaurants ready to embrace the ‘challenge’ of reopening

'Things will be different': Friel.

A County Derry publican has said pubs and restaurants will have to operate differently in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic as they prepare to reopen this Friday.

Booking will be essential to allow businesses to plan ahead for managing the numbers, while many will also make use of technology to minimise the risk to customers. 

Dermot Friel, owner of Friel’s Bar and Restaurant in Swatragh, said the return to business will be a challenge, but one the industry will embrace.

“Things have changed. Post-Covid, bars and restaurants will not operate the same as they used to,” he told the County Derry Post.

“It’s going to be a challenge. There are a lot of health and safety procedures and PPE. There are extra costs for resources and staff.

“We’re confident enough we can manage the situation but there is a big onus on the public who come into the bar to social distance and to behave in a manner that befits that.”

Hand sanitising stations will be dotted throughout the bar.

Friel’s has taken a number of specific measures to ensure customer safety ahead of Friday’s reopening.

Hand sanitising stations, supplied by local man Seamus Bradley, are dotted around the building, while staff will be provided with PPE to minimise the risk to themselves and the public.

“All our staff will be visored and the kitchen team will be all masked. Our staff have been doing the Hospitality Ulster training that includes the health and safety aspect,” said Dermot.

“They also had four specific Covid-19 modules, which is necessary. They’ll be fully aware and they’re coming in this week for more training.

“Our toilets at the front of the building will be used for the restaurant only and the toilets to the rear will be for bar and beer garden only.

“Any families coming to Friel’s can enter via the front and avail of those toilet facilities without going into the bar or beer garden area. That will manage the flow of people.

“It’s essential that customers do book their tables, we can’t guarantee a table for walk-ins. They can be booked by phone.

“We’ve taken out a good few tables in the restaurant. Although the guidelines are now 1 metre, we want to make sure people feel comfortable within the restaurant.

“Tables are well spaced out and there is also table space in the bar. We have three separate outdoor areas and we’re working to get things ready for next week.”

Tables in the restaurant have been spaced out further.

Beer gardens and outdoor areas could see the biggest culture shift, with guidelines published by the NI Executive recommending contactless ordering through an app.

“For ordering in the beer garden, there will be QR codes on the tables to limit customer contact,” said Dermot.

“It’s a new system for us and we’re adapting it into our till systems. We’re confident enough we can do it, but, like anything new, it will not be without teething problems.

“We’re asking customers to bear with us, because there will be bumps along the way, but we’ll do our best to limit that.”

While he is looking forward to embracing the challenge, Dermot is also putting in place contingency plans in case a second wave of coronavirus materialises.

Like many bars and & restaurants, Friel's will be open from Friday.

“We’ll be running the takeout alongside the bar, in case a second wave would come,” he said.

“A lot of premises have run the takeout option very successfully, so we feel that, if there was to be a second wave, we need the option there.

“We also have a lot of clientele who are older and might not be comfortable coming to a bar or restaurant yet, so if we have a takeout offering locally, they can avail of that.

“We’ve steered the pub through troubled times before. In the early 90s, with the Troubles, we had to buzz people in and out of the building to get a pint.

“It’s a challenge, but we are looking forward to welcoming our customers, both local and from the surrounding area, back to Friel’s.”

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