Popular Laois restaurant votes to "go straight to Christmas"

Lynda Kiernan

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Lynda Kiernan

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

Laois restaurant votes to 'go straight to Christmas'

One Laois restaurant attempting to hold onto a sense of humour is suggesting we all fast forward to Christmas.

The award winning Pantry restaurant on Portlaoise Main Street has a snowman outside despite the muggy August weather.

He is holding a sign asking "I say we go straight to Christmas, and we just call it a feckin year!"

Proprietor Mark Healy is also the chairman of Downtown Portlaoise.

He has been able to stay partially open despite the new restrictions on Laois, Offaly and Kildare, but it is 'snow joke' for hotels, restaurants and shops thanks to the latest restrictions. 

"A lot of businesses are very negatively affected, particularly hotels who had their bookings and were preparing for a good month compared to the previous six. They had high occupancy thanks to the push on staycations. Laois is obviously convenient, so I really feel for hotels. They will have food going out of date for the second time in six months. There is a huge cost in that, let alone making the place safe," he said.

Below: Mark with wife Ladonna, also a Portlaoise trader as proprietor of the Nook & Cranny giftshop.

He said that fellow traders noticed an instant upsurge of online trade, thanks to loyal local customers.

"There will still be a decline in sales. The government will have to look at a revised Restart grant for Laois," he said.

Mark employs 15 staff, and they all only got back to work five weeks ago.

"The wage subsidy is a great reassurance. I was actually in the middle of doing interviews for two new staff when I turned on the news and heard about the restrictions last Friday. It was surreal. To go from feeling confident enough to take on new staff, to now making sure to protect the jobs for the team we have. They are an incredible team, one worker came in the door and said 'isn't it great we are still all together and able to open at all'. Their attitude is brilliant," Mark said.

Luckily his café has an rear garden where they added seating last year. There is space for 50 socially distanced customers but Mark explains that the blanket regulation is only for 15 at a time. They are also offering takeaway service.

"I am trying to be practical, and trust that what the government is doing is in our best interests. But if there are not many more cases in Laois you would wonder is it purely a geographical decision," he said.

He is understanding of the need to keep Covid-19 at bay.

"I am thinking of my parents who would be at risk. My sister is head of the respiratory department in Temple Street children's hospital. My other sister is director of nursing in Shaen hospital, so I would be acutely aware of the pressure they're under," Mark Healy said.

Below: The message Downtown Portlaoise traders group has for customers across Laois.