HOTELS, hostels, caravan parks, galleries and museums welcomed visitors again from this morning as we move to Phase 3 for the reopening of Ireland.
Weddings with up to 50 guests can take place indoors until 20 July, with 100 people thereafter while people can attend services at places of worship from 29 June, with physical distancing measures in place.
Indoor recreational venues, such as bowling alleys and bingo halls, can also reopen while leisure centres and swimming pools are also allowed to welcome visitors again.
All sporting activity can resume from today while bars (with or without restaurant licences, as long as they serve food) can reopen with table service only and various other restrictions including the serving of a “substantial” meal.
Driving schools are back in business while all restrictions for travelling within Ireland will be lifted from Monday.
CHURCH OF IRELAND
Under the updated guidelines, churches and other places of worship will open and people will be able to attend religious services from Monday.
The news has been welcomed by Church of Ireland Rector of Conwal and Gartan Rev David Houlton.
Like other places, Conwal Parish Church will look very different next week with strict measures to be in place for the delivery of Holy Communion and a requirement that doors and windows are left open where possible.
“We’re busy this week organising ourselves. We’ve taken instruction from the Church of Ireland Bishops to see what we can and can not do and I’ll now meet with the warden and secretaries of Conwal Parish Church and St Colmcille’s Church in Gartan.
“We’ll have separate prayer books which people can take home with them while there will also be special measures to take Holy Communion and limitations on the number of people allowed into the building at any one time,” Rev Houlton explained.
In the meantime, online services, which can be viewed through the Conwal Parish Facebook page, will continue this weekend.
“Sadly we’ve had two funerals – neither of which was Covid related – since lockdown and that’s been a big challenge for us all. People want to have large wakes and to have everyone around but instead all we had was a graveside service. It’s so upsetting but thank God everyone has been so careful and we appear to have got rid of the virus around here – for the moment at least,” Rev Houlton added.
The pandemic has also led to two local weddings being postponed, although one has since been rescheduled for the autumn.
“We’re here two and a half years now and it’s a lovely part of the world in which to live. We are honoured to have been invited,” he said.
Rev Houlton had been formerly ministering in the Yorkshire Dales while his wife, Rev Heather Houlton, had been serving a neighbouring rural community in Yorkshire.
“Before that, we lived in Brussels. We’ve also lived in France and on the German Swiss border but we’ve found Donegal to be most welcome. The community connection here is very strong – much better than in other parts of Europe in which we live. We’re very lucky,” he said.
The first service is due to take place in Conwal Parish Church on Sunday next, July 5, at 10.30am followed by a service in St Colmcille’s church, Gartan, at 12.30pm.
Mark Doherty is the managing director of Century Cinemas at Leckview Lane. He acknowledged that the cinema sector would have to adapt to a “new normal”.
He plans to reopen his business on a phased basis. The Backstage Bar and Grill will re-open on Monday followed by Century Play on Friday, July 3 and the cinema a week later, Friday, July 10.
He is preparing for the possibility that social distancing may remain in place for some time, which could see cinemas operating at a reduced capacity of between 25% and 30%, because of fewer screenings and fewer cinemagoers.
“It’s going to take some time before we have all our employees back as we will need business to return to pre-Covid figures for that to happen,” Mr Doherty said.
When the cinema does reopen, customers will also see a number of changes, including the need to pre-purchase tickets, which will be scanned at the entrance.
A number of major movie releases, such as Tenet and the Top Gun sequel, are expected in late summer, after Covid-19 stalled release and production schedules.
“It might be a few weeks yet before we see any new releases, with Mulan from Disney expected out first next month. That said, it’s a fluid situation as some people have been caught on the hop and dates might change,” he said.
“We’ll open the restaurant first from next Monday and we’ll review how that goes before opening the play centre. Again we’ll review how’s that’s going before we open the cinema on Friday, July 10,” he added.
Century Cinemas operates eight screens in Letterkenny but it will be some time yet before they’re all operational.
“The maximum number of people allowed at any one screening is fifty and then, from July 20, that rises to one hundred. However, when social distancing is put into the mix that number might reduce to sixty.
“We’ll open two or three screens and slowly ramp it up from there. We’ve been closed four months and it will take time to get fully back up and running,” Mr Doherty said.
Gerry’s Barber at Upper Main Street, Letterkenny, will re-open its doors at 9am on Monday morning.
“We’re expecting to see a few convicts and others with wild mops of hair on their heads coming through the door. More importantly though we’re looking forward to the conversation and the craic,” shop owner Gerry McGeever said.
Together with fellow barber Marty Lynch, the pair have great knowledge and stories from around Letterkenny and Milford with football, snooker and athletics also on the agenda for those awaiting their next pruning.
“A lot of people have been improvising over this last while so we’re going to have to get right back to the basics.
“There will be a few guys coming in looking like convicts with their skinheads and others whose hair hasn’t seen a pair of scissors since before St Patrick’s Day.
“I might spend fifteen minutes with some fellas laughing, joking and messing about before I start cutting their hair. That’s what I’ve missed the most – the craic,” he explained.
A spacious shop, Gerry’s Barber can comfortably adhere to social distancing rules with five or six waiting customers in the premises.
“We’re spoilt for room which should give customers the confidence to come in. We’re putting in perspex screens this week to make sure that things are safe for both customers and staff,” he said.
Gerry has no plans to operate an appointment system but he is hoping to set aside an hour each morning for old age pensioners.
“Barber shops, by tradition, work on a first come, first served basis and I don’t see that changing. It will probably take fifty per cent longer per customer. We’ll be changing capes, disinfecting seats etc. between each customer but we’ll all get used to it pretty quickly.
“I’ll be wearing a visor and we’ll be standing behind the customer at all times. We have to be ultra careful. It’s about staying safe as we look to get back to some sort of normality but not forgetting the craic,” he smiled.
“We closed on March 14, a few days before we needed to close, but I felt that we should have been closed a week or two earlier. A stitch in time saves nine and it’s important that we all continue to be careful and look out for one another.
“When things settle a bit I might set aside the first hour to old age pensioners in the mornings,” he added.
THE Arena7 entertainment complex at Ballyraine Retail Park will reopen its doors on Monday from 12 noon for bowling, Laser Quest, fast food diner and the kids adventure centre with the restaurant taking its first customers from 3pm.
“We’ll be working off a reduced capacity and reduced hours but when it comes to entertainment we have it all,” Darren McIlwaine, manager said.
Traditionally, Arena 7 would be one of the biggest local employers of casual staff during the summer months but they’re facing into a more uncertain time.
“First and foremost we need local people to support local business in Letterkenny, especially over the next few months. We also need businesses to create the right environment because the harsh reality is if there’s another spike we’re right back at square one. Finally, and most importantly, we’ll need continued government support into the autumn.
“We’ll be working at half capacity during the summer months. The government support is there until the end of August but we’ll need it to be extended to keep people employed and businesses open,” he warned.
“It’s going to be an interesting six to eight months. It’s up to us to instil customer confidence. We have loads of things to do in Arena 7 for everyone when in Letterkenny. We’ve a good product, we’ve good staff and we’re looking forward to reopening our doors,” Mr McIlwaine said.
Empty mini bars, buffet-free breakfasts and regular deep cleaning are among the measures being introduced by The Silver Tassie Hotel and Spa, Ramelton Road, Letterkenny as it prepares to reopen at the start of July.
The award winning family run 4 star hotel has been in the Blaney family for two generations.
“We’re looking forward to opening up the hotel, lounge and restaurant on Wednesday 1st July and we will be serving food daily from 12pm – 12am. We’ve had quite a lot of calls coming in particularly about our Sunday Lunch and we’re already taking bookings for this as well as the lounge and restaurant,” Mr Ciaran Blaney said.
“We’re very lucky out in the Tassie in that we have plenty of space both inside and out and we can accommodate the new social distancing guidelines. We’ve also put all other measures, that were recommended in place including updated staff training and we will have sanitising stations and signage throughout the hotel,” he added.
While a lot of weddings have had to be rescheduled this year, The Silver Tassie has seen an increase in enquiries from couples looking for their wedding venue for next year and indeed 2022 and 2023.
“Our wedding coordinators are now taking appointments for private show arounds. We don’t have a confirmed date for the reopening of our Seascape Spa just yet but are planning on having it up and running by July 20th if not earlier. We also have an enquiry list in place for the spa for anyone looking to pre-book before we open.
“All we need now are our loyal customers coming back in the door again,” Mr Blaney said.
McGettigan’s Hotel and the Warehouse Bar and Kitchen on Main Street will be re-opening on Monday.
Arriving guests will experience familiar changes including hand sanitiser stations, floor markers and perspex screens at check-in while almost all paperwork has been removed from the rooms in accordance with Failte Ireland, Vintners Federation of Ireland and HSE guidelines.
“The phone lines have been quite busy this last few weeks so we do have quite a few guests arriving early next week. While there will be a lot of social distancing measures in place we would expect guests will have the same enjoyable experience,” a spokeswoman for McGettigan’s said.
“There will be a few less items than usual in the bedrooms but all the necessities will be there and we’re looking forward to welcoming guests back into the hotel,” she added.
“The Warehouse will open daily for 12 noon on Monday as we resume business next door too,” she said.
McGinley’s Bar, which has been trading in the heart of Letterkenny’s Main Street since the late 19th century, reopens on Wednesday next, July 1.
Music has at the heart of what the popular hostelry has to offer locals and visitors alike but, unfortunately, it might be some time yet before the sound of live music can be heard wafting from the bar out into the night air.
Instead, the old-style décor will become home to a pizza bar after owner Hughie Elliot and his son Stephen were granted a restaurant licence last week.
“We’re opening the bar on Wednesday. July 1. The pizza bus – The Pineapple Express – will be serving pizza. Kevin Keeney is our chef,” Stephen Elliot explained this week.
“Hughie (Elliot) isn’t hanging up the boots just yet so things will still feel very normal around here,” he added.
This week they were busy putting a new shop front on the bar.
“The timber was rotten. Once we pared it back we came across a clock with established 1896 on it. It’s as far back as we can trace the pub here for definite,” Stephen said.
The Pineapple Express will operate out of an old double decker bus which is located behind the beer garden to the rear of the bar.
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