New Ross Standard - - FRONT PAGE - By DAVID LOOBY

AF­TER months of wait­ing, paint­ing and re­dec­o­rat­ing, lo­cal busi­ness own­ers have re-opened their doors to cus­tomers, an­nounc­ing that they are back and de­ter­mined to get through the com­ing days, weeks and months as re­stric­tions are eased.

The sud­den clo­sure of busi­nesses across the dis­trict, in­clud­ing hair sa­lons, ho­tels and restau­rants, in mid-March left many fac­ing into an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

‘It’s like open­ing for the first time; nearly like the first time you turn the keys on your first busi­ness. My heart will be in my mouth about it. Will peo­ple be con­scious about com­ing in? Maybe they will be grand and will for­get about it, but you can’t for­get about it: it’s the new nor­mal!’ Richard Tobin of the Fort Co­nan Ho­tel in Dun­can­non said.

Thanks to sup­ports from Wex­ford County Coun­cil and the gov­ern­ment, busi­ness own­ers – al­though un­der­stand­ably anx­ious – are hope­ful that through lo­cal sup­port they can pull through.

THE APEX pool, gym and leisure cen­tre is re­open­ing on July 13, fol­low­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in ev­ery­thing from fog­ging ma­chines to hand sani­tiser sta­tions.

The 12 months lead­ing up to Fri­day, March 13, when the Apex closed its doors, saw a ten per cent in­crease in foot­fall and man­ager Mark Win­kle is hop­ing that the cur­rent 50 per­son limit will be in­creased to at least 100 so that the fa­cil­ity can re­coup some of the losses of the past ten weeks.

On the de­ci­sion to de­lay re­open­ing un­til a fort­night af­ter the lift­ing of the lat­est re­stric­tions, Mr Win­kle said: ‘ There is no point in rush­ing it. I was gear­ing my­self up for July 20 and then that changed.’

Apex staff have been re­turn­ing to the Bosheen road fa­cil­ity in phases and re­open­ing train­ing will com­mence this week.

All 20 staff were tem­po­rar­ily laid off on March 13.

Mr Win­kle said: ‘ There is no way we can re­coup back those three months. We will have mas­sive losses but ev­ery­one is in the same boat.’

Un­der cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, the 50 peo­ple in­door limit poses great chal­lenges for a fa­cil­ity that is used to ac­com­mo­dat­ing around 150.

‘I am hop­ing the gov­ern­ment bring the 50 limit up to 100 be­fore July 20, when it is due to be in­tro­duced.’

Hav­ing been as­sured by health of­fi­cers that it is safe for peo­ple to use the pool as the virus does not last in chlo­rine and warm wa­ter, Mr Win­kle said he can’t wait to see peo­ple back in us­ing the pool which will be deep cleaned, as will the gym, af­ter ev­ery ses­sion. As this will take up to 15 min­utes, us­age of both fa­cil­i­ties will be im­pacted.

All swim­ming lessons are on hold and when they do re­turn, class sizes will be smaller and classes will be run more fre­quently.

‘We will try to in­tro­duce them as quickly as we can.’

Through­out the ‘ lock­down’, Apex staff mem­bers have been post­ing three work-out videos and three work-out chal­lenges per week.

‘It’s about keep­ing in with mem­bers, but also the gen­eral pub­lic; try­ing to help them along. It’s been a tough time and very men­tally drain­ing for a lot of peo­ple. With the videos they could set aside 30 min­utes and get some ex­er­cise.’

Mr Win­kle thanked his team, say­ing they went above and be­yond over the past ten weeks, to bring their own work-out plans to peo­ple.

The sud­den clo­sure of the busi­ness came as a big blow to Mark and the team: ‘We had turned things around nicely. We had heartache over the last few years but the sup­port we have got­ten from the lo­cal com­mu­nity has been ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. Our foot­fall num­bers from Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary were up 500. That shows that con­fi­dence is back in the gen­eral pub­lic with the Apex and once I can make the gen­eral pub­lic and the com­mu­nity happy, that’s all that mat­ters.’

All mem­ber­ships have been frozen and Mr Win­kle plans to al­low mem­bers a few weeks free ac­cess from July 13, prior to them be­ing re­ac­ti­vated.

Among mea­sures be­ing put in place is a new one-way sys­tem so peo­ple aren’t pass­ing one an­other on the stairs up to the gym floor, for ex­am­ple.

A pre-book sys­tem is also be­ing in­tro­duced, along with a mem­bers’ app and a gen­eral pub­lic app is be­ing con­sid­ered. Book­ings can also be made on the Apex web­site.

New chlo­rine based fog­ging ma­chines to help with sani­ti­sa­tion will be used. ‘It’s a new norm but it’s a good thing. Wex­ford County Coun­cil has in­vested a lot in the Apex and has helped us along so the back­ing is there. With­out swim­ming lessons and school swims it’s hard to tell if all staff will be back, but I hope to bring ev­ery­one back. It all de­pends on so­cial dis­tanc­ing and what the gov­ern­ment throw at us. We are happy to stick with the guide­lines and when­ever they de­cide to move the goal­posts we will go with it.’


Michael Byrne, Martina Cashin, Mark Win­kle (man­ager) and Aideen Fur­long at the Apex in New Ross.

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