Pubs, arts groups predict very slow recovery
By Kiani Hildebrandt & Ellen O’Regan
The hospitality sector in Galway are crossing their fingers for a busy summer, following the devastating losses many business suffered in 2020.
Pubs, restaurants and hotels across the City are set to reopen on 7 June.
Those in the Creative Arts sector are also preparing to get back to work galleries and other cultural attractions have already opened their doors this week.
No dates have yet been announced for when music venues and theatres will be allowed to reopen to live audiences, but those working in the industry are hoping to see some phased reopening over the summer.
Some are looking forward to reopening and are hopeful for an upturn in business, while others remain pessimistic.
Pubs, restaurants and hotels
The Connacht Hospitality Group has been busy preparing to reopen its venues including An Púcán, 1520, and the Connacht Hotel.
“We are really looking forward to getting the businesses up and running. It’s been a year of guessing and wondering, but now we have clarity,” said Eveanna Ryan, Group Sales and Marketing Manager.
“We want people to have a really good time when they start to come out. We invested heavily in outdoor seating, but the biggest thing we invested time in was retraining our staff and looking at our menus,” she said.
The popular Blue Note Bar on Sea Road is also hoping to reopen in June. The well known drinks and dance bar is run by partners Kevin Healy, Simon Heaslip, and Malachy Duggan.
The group also run Massimo and the Róisín Dubh. Mr Duggan said they are looking forward to “getting the band back together” as they welcome their staff back.
The Blue Note Bar will be re-opening with new outdoor seating benches, and the space features a brand new wall painting by Galway artist Stephen Gilligan.
“One of my favourite things to do is to collaborate with really brilliant people. Just say yes”, said Mr Duggan.
“If the proposed pedestrianisation of Galway city streets goes ahead, roads around the West End would become a one-way system, which would allow businesses like the Blue Note, Massimo, and Róisín Dubh to have more room for outdoor seating.
“It if happens, and it is looking like it is, then we would be absolutely delighted especially as Massimo and the Blue Note are on the sunny side of the street,” he added.
Publican Gary Colohan is planning to open a new traditional bar, named MP Walsh, in the West End.
Mr Colohan said the premises was ideally located around good eateries like Handsome Burger, Tartare, and Dela.
Mr Colohan added he hoped to increase his outdoor seating capacity to make the most of their grand opening, with help from the City Council.
Musician Tom Lyons has been playing and teaching music for over 20 years.
Until the pandemic hit, Mr Lyons said he was “flat to the mat” working with 50 Leaving and Junior Certificate music students, as well as students in his own music school, and regularly playing at ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, on top of weekly trad nights in his local pub in Ballinrobe.
All of that came to an abrupt halt last March. “I’ve spent over 12 months doing nothing,” he said. Mr Lyons said he believed the lockdown has changed people’s habits, and expects that people will be inclined to stay in most nights rather than visit their local pub for live music.
“People say ‘back to normal’ but what we regard as normal is never going to happen again. I’d be very confident that I’m never going to be as busy as I was before.
“Certainly, in rural Ireland there’ll be far less pubs than there were before, and shorter opening hours, and conse- quently less live music. I feel it’s going to be much harder to make a living out of music from now on”.
Denise Hogan is a full-time artist and art teacher working from her studio in Connemara.
Ms Hogan believes a steady income for artists should be something carried on into the future.
“This is the first time that artists and self-employed people have been treated the same way as everybody else. We were actually given the PUP without question, which would be a lot more than many were earning anyway.
“If you look at the amount of money that the art industry brings into the country as revenue, and then you look at the average wage for an artist, you’re talking about way below the minimum wage,” she said.
Feargal Hynes, Executive Director of the Druid Theatre, said he believed some elements of how they’ve been operating over the past year, such as live streaming productions, could enhance how they serve audiences.
“I think it will be very inter- esting to see what the appetite is like for live-streamed theatre when we return to some level of normality. We’re getting to people in countries that we never could have gotten to before.
Mr Hynes said he had high hopes for the future of hybrid theatre, with a number of plans for outdoor productions, radio plays, and poetry films in the pipeline.
“Not much will go back to where it was post-pandemic but I suppose I hope our ‘new normal’ has packed theatres, because there’s an energy and an excitement in a packed theatre that can’t be replicated anywhere else…
I think that there will continue to be some sort of a hybrid, but I think the return to some level of normality will be in the near to medium future, and we’d be very positive about the outlook,” he added.
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