Pat Crotty, proprietor of the current Irish Pub of the Year Paris Texas, spent his first couple of weeks following the pub’s closure looking after the needs of his staff.
“We were first in with applications for supports but the various departments kept changing their minds and their processes” he tells me, “so being the early bird actually created more work.”
But that’s all sorted out now, he says, with some of his staff better-off back on the payroll and others better-off on welfare.
“We also spoke to almost every supplier to see how to press the ‘pause’ button on our transactions without hurting either party.
“For the last two weeks we were very industrious about the building and the stock. We got to do a proper job on our shopfront, not just painting but also replacing any damaged or old timbers and details to bring it all back to new. We put an acid treatment on all our tile floors to bring them back to new too.”
Next on the list is an update of all the pub’s written systems – SOPs, staff manuals for all menu items including ingredients, methods and photos of what each plate should look like as it comes off the pass, he explains.
“In Spring we always update our menu so we’ll do that soon. We were about to launch a weekend brunch menu on 29th March so that’s on hold for the foreseeable future.
Paris Texas had decided to close before the Government told pubs to do so, so Pat had scaled back on his food purchases already.
“We also have a very large freezer so we lost very little,” he adds, “Our lines are all cleaned and dry. Unfortunately there will be a huge national loss on perishable beer products but the suppliers have been very supportive. My spirits are, where possible, put away safe.”
The pub has monitored fire and intruder alarms.
“We also have someone (often me) on the premises for most of the normal hours and we check everything daily (leaks, freezer etc) and open all the doors and roof lights to air the place. We haven’t had to board-up our front as has been the case for some in Dublin,” he comments.
As with most in the licensed trade he too is having difficulty with his insurers.
“We’re covered if the Health Officer closes us but we’re not covered if the Chief Health Officer tells the Government to close us,” he says, “It’s semantics and will be played out on a bigger stage. I also have difficulty with their incapacity to calculate a discount for redundant cover.
“Most cover is determined by calculations based on turnover and payroll so how difficult is it to calculate a rebate on the same basis? The one piece of advice on this is: get a good loss assessor.”
So how will his post-Covid-19 premises differ from the pre-Covid-19 one?
“This depends on what stage of recovery we’re at when pubs reopen,” he responds, “If we reopen too soon (with social distancing still in place) then the pub won’t work as the social hub it has been for generations.
“If there’s the same fear factor people currently experience just going to the shop then we’ll have very few customers. Also, with social distancing, it will be very difficult to have a viable business as we will be very restricted on numbers.
“We had put in place every good practice (before we closed) to ensure the safety of our customers. The people whose safety was most at risk were our staff – and the homes and families to which they returned every night. On reopening we’ll have to be very happy that they’re safe or it could become our responsibility.”
As an insatiable reader of information Pat soaks up every bit of news and opinion that might improve his decision-making on the subject and there has been a constant and daily feed of information from the VFI, government agencies and other media to keep up with, he says.
So are we going to see pubs fall by the wayside as a result of this pandemic?
“I think that lots of businesses (and not just pubs) will fall away during and after this crisis” he replies, “and for many different reasons. Some pubs that were struggling will find it hard to put more funds in. Some lifestyle pubs may take the opportunity to hang up their boots. Heavily borrowed pubs may find repayments more onerous.
“Pubs depending on food may find habits changed. Those dependant on tourism are going to have a difficult couple of years. How will landlords treat tenants after the fact? There are so many variables that will all play a part in what happens.”
But there are some positives to be taken from this whole affair.
Positives to be taken
“It’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow some good,” believes Pat, “Over a long period we have become accustomed to being ‘time poor’. Now we’re getting a breather, an opportunity to re-evaluate what we could or should be focussing on and what needs or deserves our attention. As well as working a few hours every day I will improve my French and Spanish (not hard), I will read a few good books and I will share cooking and meals and conversations around the table with my family.”
“Over a long period we have become accustomed to being ‘time poor’. Now we’re getting a breather, an opportunity to re-evaluate what we could or should be focussing on and what needs or deserves our attention.”