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'It was a massive blow': Kildare business owners continue to count the cost of regional lockdown

Cabinet agreed to lift the extra restrictions in place in the county yesterday.

Barry McKnight proprietor of the J-One Cafe in Athy
Barry McKnight proprietor of the J-One Cafe in Athy
Image: PA Images

TRADERS IN KILDARE have been welcoming back customers and staff following the lifting of a regional lockdown in the county last night.

Business owners, however, say they are counting the cost of the restrictions imposed on the county, which also came into effect in Laois and Offaly on 8 August.

Cabinet agreed to lift the extra restrictions in place in the county following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) yesterday.

NPHET reviewed the epidemiological situation in Kildare and confirmed that it is now broadly similar to that across the country

As many businesses reopened in Kildare following the first nationwide lockdown, they were dealt a huge blow when they were forced to close their doors again following an outbreak of Covid-19 cases associated with meat plants.

Several plants in the Midlands saw outbreaks of Covid-19 earlier this summer.

Last week, hopes of an early release for Kildare were dashed when Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said Covid-19 case numbers in the county had not stabilised sufficiently.

But speaking after the lockdown was lifted yesterday, publican Mark Redmond, owner of The Emigrant Bar and Eatery in Athy, said he was very excited about being able to re-open.

“I’m looking forward to some sort of normality,” he said.

“I know that it’s only a small thing but it’s a big thing for us. It’s been very difficult.”

The family-run pub only began serving food for the first time last November after a large investment, having formerly only offered drinks.

Redmond said they were only getting the hang of it when they were forced to shut in March, along with other pubs across the country.

“I was very nervous and upset,” he said about the start of Covid-19 restrictions in spring.

“It’s very much a family orientated business – my three daughters work in the pub. It was a massive blow. For the first two weeks of lockdown I couldn’t talk, I was speechless.

“I didn’t know what to do.”

He said the regionalised lockdown in Kildare came as “another blow”, putting his business under added financial pressure, but added that their ability to serve food has proved to be a lifeline.

‘It floored us’

Meanwhile, John Bradbury, owner of Bradburys cafe and bakery in Athy and Newbridge, said the second lockdown has been stressful.

The business has been in the family for three generations since 1938 and employs around 50 staff. Since 7 August, the cafe has been open to takeaways and outdoor seating only.

“We first reopened with the retail stores in June,” Bradbury said.

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“We had modified the building and put glass separators in place. We were back up to about 65% of our business, but then when the lockdown happened it just floored us again.

“While we have outdoor space, it’s only good to use when the weather is nice. Fortunately we didn’t lay anyone off and now we have most our staff back. We are just waiting for two more of our part-timers to return.

“We also do a lot of schools meals and they returned as scheduled. Our customers, staff and suppliers have been great and given us a lot of support. But for a small business in a rural area, not having indoor seating has been catastrophic.

“Our turnover halved since we reopened even through we have put an enormous amount of work into it and the staff have been marvellous. We were making great headway then the lockdown knocked us back.”

Speaking at yesterday’s Department of Health briefing, Dr Glynn thanked the people of Kildare for their efforts during the regional lockdown.

He also acknowledged the impact that the measures had on some communities and on businesses in the county.

But he added that a willingness to adhere to the guidance protected people and their families, as well as preventing widespread community transmission and facilitating the reopening of schools.

“It’s a testament to people’s willingness to stick with this despite frustration, despite fatigue and I’m sure anger in many instances,” Glynn said.

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