Bernie Everard, Laois Chamber CEO
Optimism, tempered by a degree of caution, greeted the re-opening of retail businesses across Laois on Monday morning. There was a palpable sigh of relief as shutters were finally lifted after more than a two month hiatus.
Bernie Everard, CEO of Laois Chamber who is heading up the Business Recovery Group in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Office and Laois County Council, said that businesses were trying to find all the positives they could.
"People are worried, there is huge uncertainty. Will there be an uptake for the first week or month - buyer's revenge - but will that change. What happens when the temporary wage subsidy scheme ends?"
Bernie Everard stressed the importance of getting a government in place. "Everybody wants financial support. I believe the Government will come with other supports. The restart grant, which is being administered through the local authorities, is there for any business that paid rates.
"I believe there will also be help for those that did not pay rates. The Government will have to figure out the logistics of a scheme.
"Once we have a government in place there will be other schemes which will, hopefully, help as many as possible."
Heading up the Business Recovery Group, Bernie is in "a process of engagement" with businesses, groups and organisations across the county, on a town by town basis.
"We started last week with Mountmellick and Mountrath. We are looking at things like a re-determination of some areas, for example, outdoor areas for coffee shops.
"Laois County Council are keen to make it work, once everything is in compliance with health and safety and Covid guidelines.
"Ideas previously shelved before might be resurrected. After this first stage hopefully things might evolve. We will have to see how it works."
As regards Laois Chamber Bernie notes that the group is now part of the Chambers Ireland lobbying group which has become even more galvanised during the Covid crisis.
"Laois Chamber is obviously not on a big membership drive at the moment. Our aim is to keep as many members as we can and we have had some new businesses joining during Covid."
Bernie has hosted a series of webinars, open to all businesses, and this Wednesday it's the turn of Supermac's and Killeshin Hotel owner, Pat McDonagh.