Donegal food businesses are facing very difficult choices due to lockdown uncertainty

Restaurants and cafés need more consideration when it comes to imposing restrictions

Donegal food businesses are facing very difficult choices due to lockdown uncertainty

Food businesses need to know if they can order produce for next week

Restaurateurs, café owners and other businesses dealing with short shelf-life produce are at their wits end over the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 restriction levels.

While preparing for a move out of Level Five next week, those who need fresh produce to run their business are facing a dilemma. Do they order now to ensure that they will be able to fulfill their menu if restrictions are eased? Or do they wait until closer to the time and risk not being able to get an adequate supply of produce?

Jo Roarty of Quay West Restaurant in Donegal Town is trying to take her characteristic positive approach. But these are unprecedented times and even the most pro-active and optimistic members of the business community are struggling to see the way forward.

“We are here getting ready to open but in reality we have no idea what is going to happen,” she told the Donegal Post. 

“Even if we do open, we don’t know how long we can stay open for before there is another lockdown. It is very costly for businesses to close. We have to throw out all our stock. You can’t even give it to people because with the Covid, people are being so careful. 

“We don’t know what is ahead so we just have to try and order day by day.”

There are well-founded fears that while the rest of the country could go back to Level 2 restrictions, Donegal might not. The 14-day incidence rate remains the highest in the country and being a border county makes it more difficult to suppress the spread of Covid-19.

“I wonder will Donegal get open for business at all,” said Ms Roarty. “But we have to keep looking ahead. All we can do is go for it and hope we get to open next week.”
If restrictions only ease to Level 3 for Donegal, that will not be good news for restaurants and cafés. They will only be able to open for take-away or outdoor dining up to 15 people. It goes without saying that outdoor dining in a Donegal winter is not going to sustain any food businesses.  

This seems grossly unfair when other aspects of the hospitality industry are allowed to serve food.

“The big question I have - and I say this with no disrespect to our colleagues and friends in the hotel industry - is how can the government think that it is safe to stay in a hotel for 24 hours but not to sit in a restaurant for just over an hour?”

It is hoped that whatever is decided, more thought will be given to businesses which cannot hold on to stock because of its perishable nature. And it is also hoped that supports for businesses will continue into the new year to give this hard-hit sector hope for the future.

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