LIFT-OFF FOR BUSINESSES!
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.’
THERE IS NO WAY WE CAN RECOUP BACK THOSE THREE MONTHS. WE WILL HAVE MASSIVE LOSSES BUT EVERYONE IS IN THE SAME BOAT
Michael Byrne, Martina Cashin, Mark Winkle (manager) and Aideen Furlong at the Apex in New Ross.