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Connacht Tribune

Hard work, hope and imagination offer recipe for success

Judy Murphy

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Kerry Leigh at the new Lighthouse Café in Terryland. She and her husband Mark have continued with plans to expand their vegetarian business in spite of Covid-19. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – Restaurants and bars that serve food face new challenges as they learn to operate in a Covid-19 world. Stringent new safety regulations must be adhered to while customer capacity has been reduced across the board. It’s not an easy time but as they adjust to these strange circumstances, three of those on the frontline tell JUDY MURPHY how they are adapting and of their hopes for the future.

Lighthouse Café

It takes a brave person to expand their business at present, but that’s exactly what Kerry Leigh and her husband Mark have done.

The Leighs, who own the Lighthouse Café, a small but successful vegan restaurant on Galway City’s Abbeygate Street, had already decided to expand before Covid-19 shut down Ireland.

With their Abbeygate Street premises closed they had some hard calls to make, but they decided to forge ahead and open the new premises in Terryland. Although it’s early days, that space has been a godsend, according to Kerry.

The initial plan, when they signed the lease for the Terryland restaurant last November, had been for two sit-down venues.

“But Abbeygate Street is so small we’ve had to change everything,” says Kerry. Under current guidelines, only she and Mark would have been able to work in the kitchen of that café which can seat 24 indoors in normal times.

That meant running it as a restaurant when they reopened – even with extra seats outdoors – wasn’t possible.

Instead, they’ve played to the strengths of both venues. For now, all their savoury food is being made in the Terryland kitchen and ferried into the Abbeygate Street premises via e-bike and trailer. A take-away menu operating there is proving popular with regulars and visitors.

And while dropping off the savoury dishes, they collect scones and desserts which are made in Abbeygate Street, and transport them to Terryland. That means a comprehensive menu is available in each place.

Pre-Covid, the new Terryland space could have accommodated up to 35 diners; now it’s 16 or 17, says Kerry.

The Leighs, who took over the lease of the existing Lighthouse Café in 2017, showed that vegetarian and vegan food could be seriously tasty as well as healthy. It soon became so popular, customers were queuing for a seat.

“We wanted to expand, but we couldn’t go up and we couldn’t go sideways,” Kerry explains of the physical constraints they faced in the city centre space. And they needed more room. They began to discuss it seriously last Autumn and by November had the lease sorted. The Terryland Lighthouse was due to open in early June but Covid delayed everything. Their landlord was reasonable about the rent, and the couple decided to keep going.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Remote working creates rural boom

Stephen Corrigan

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Report....Professor Alma McCarthy.

Urban dwellers are now looking to up sticks and move to the countryside, as working from home becomes the norm – and with a new survey showing almost all workers who have made the switch hoping to maintain some level of remote working, rural life is becoming increasingly attractive.

According to one of the lead researchers behind the second national employee survey carried out since the onset of Covid-19, remote working is surging in popularity, with 94% of over 5,600 participants hoping to continue working remotely for some or all of the time – an increase from 83% six months ago.

Professor Alma McCarthy of the Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUIG told the Connacht Tribune that the desire to continue working from home had grown since the first phase of the survey in April, with more flexible hours and no traffic adding to its appeal.

“What we are looking at here is a particular cohort of the workforce that have jobs which lend themselves to working from home, and where people have that opportunity, we see that support has gone up [for remote working].

“Most people want a blended type of working arrangement, where they work from home some of the time and go into the office maybe one or two days a week. I think that is probably how it will look from now on,” said Prof McCarthy.

The number of people who wish to work from home five days a week has more than doubled since April, now at 27% compared to 12% in the early days of Covid-19.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Retail outlets stay positive despite shut-down

Stephen Corrigan

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Challenge...Fiona Charity.

Galway retailers have reiterated calls to shop local online in the coming weeks, as Level 5 restrictions force them to close their doors in the run up to peak shopping season.

From today (Thursday), unessential retailers must shut up shop until December 1 – limiting outlets such as clothes, furniture and toy shops to online sales and collections only.

One such shop is Modella Fashion in Corrandulla, which only opened its doors for the first time in July, and while owner Fiona Charity said it was clearly a huge challenge to start a new business in a pandemic, she remained hopeful that she could weather the storm.

“It’s obviously hugely disappointing, but public health is the most important thing, and if this works, we might have more freedom for Christmas.

“We are lucky in that we went live with our website last week and that’s been really busy already. Even though we can’t open, people are able to order online and have their order delivered, or click and collect,” said Ms Charity ahead of closing this week.

Likewise, Standún in An Spidéal has seen a surge in their online sales since the onset of Covid-19, according to manager Deirdre Ní Ghríofa, who said the message for everyone was to “shop local as much as you possibly can”.

Ms Ní Ghríofa said they had a big increase in local sales online during the early days of the pandemic and that was something she hoped would continue in the run up to Christmas.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Back in our bubble – and braced for the impact

Dara Bradley

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Fourth Class pupils from Galway Educate Together NS in Newcastle enjoying the wonder of science to mark the launch of Galway Science and Technology Festival's 2020 online programme running from November 8 to 22.

Galway is braced for the economic impact of this week’s return to lockdown – with both the pub and retail sector preparing for the worst.

The head of the county’s publicans predicted that as many as one in five outlets will never reopen, given that the best case scenario now is that they’ll return to Level 3 for Christmas,  which limits outdoor drinkers to just 15.

In a stark warning, Chair of the Galway branch of the VFI, Joe Sheridan, said a conservative estimate was that 20% of pubs won’t reopen – but that could rise to one-third if they didn’t see some return to business for the festive season.

Retailers too were predicting the worst – but still with the belief that a good December could save them.

The reasoning behind the move to Level 5 was underlined by the fact that new cases of the infection are now rising at a rate of 500 per week.

After another record week of positive cases in Galway, there were 13 patients in two public hospitals being treated for Covid-19 – twelve in UHG and one in Ballinasloe.

There were a further three suspected cases in UHG.

See full coverage of the Covid crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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