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Country back in business as we're set for a €50m party

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Owner Martin McCaffrey outside Dublin’s Hole in the Wall

Owner Martin McCaffrey outside Dublin’s Hole in the Wall

Owner Martin McCaffrey outside Dublin’s Hole in the Wall

Restaurants and hotels are struggling to cope with an avalanche of festive bookings ahead of their busiest weekend of the year.

Around €50m will be spent on hospitality over the next three days, making up 10pc of their expected yearly income.

Data from real-time online booking network Opentable.com shows many of Dublin's most popular restaurants and gastro bars are fully booked tonight, with only limited outdoor seating available at some venues.

This comes as the country faces icy, wet and windy weekend weather.

However, business owners in the hospitality sector, who have been desperate to open after a turbulent eight months, are expecting a profitable few days.

Decorations

The Hole in the Wall pub on Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin - a venue renowned for its spectacular Christmas decorations - is no longer taking online reservations after its system crashed on Wednesday.

Owner Martin McCaffrey told the Herald they received more than 1,500 emails in two days from customers looking to book a table in Europe's longest pub.

"We've had to put two staff on the switchboard to ring people back to confirm bookings, it's been manic," he said.

The Shelbourne Hotel, where one night will set you back nearly €500, is fully booked for the weekend as Dubliners continue with tradition.

"Many choose to mark or celebrate Christmas in The Shelbourne, and while this year's celebrations will be different and gatherings will be smaller, our guests are happy to adapt their tradition as required," said sales and marketing director Yvonne Donohue.

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La Peniche manager Shiful Islam gets ready to welcome customers to the restaurant this weekend. Photo: Frank McGrath

La Peniche manager Shiful Islam gets ready to welcome customers to the restaurant this weekend. Photo: Frank McGrath

La Peniche manager Shiful Islam gets ready to welcome customers to the restaurant this weekend. Photo: Frank McGrath

This weekend will be one of the busiest of the year for the hospitality industry as families and friends gather to celebrate the end of a six-week lockdown.

Cafe en Seine on Dawson Street received 140 bookings yesterday via Opentable.

Some business owners learned harsh lessons after the last re-opening, with many losing out due to no-shows and last-minute cancellations.

La Peniche restaurant on the Grand Canal - like many others - now requires deposits.

"As the restaurant is on a boat, we don't store our food and have to buy it fresh every day," marketing manager Wayne Lawlor said.

"Last time, there were 11 no-shows and cancellations in the one day and the owners lost out on a lot of money."

One Cork restaurant, Luigi Malone's, said it had every available booking for Saturday dining until the New Year snapped up in just three hours of the booking system going live.

General manager Morad Gharib said they were stunned by the high level of interest.

"We went live for bookings after it was confirmed that restaurants would be allowed to re-open for the Christmas season. It was absolutely crazy," he said.

"We thought the booking system might crash because the demand was so great."

Around €10m will be spent on food and beverages across Cork over the next 48 hours.

Cork members of the Irish Hotels Federation, Restaurants Association and Cork Business Association said today and tomorrow could emerge as among the most important trading periods of the entire year for pandemic-hit retailers.

A survey of 10 Cork restaurants revealed not a single available booking for tomorrow and next Saturday night.

Tony McMahon, who oper- ates Waterford restaurant Bellissimo, said bookings have been very heavy for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Hotels are also experiencing a surge in demand, despite being hamstrung by the inter-county ban that remains in place until Dec- ember 18.

Honor Byrne, the commercial director of the Cliff at Lyons Hotel in Kildare, said bookings "look great" for the weekend.

"We have a few rooms left, but I think they will fill as there's a lot of interest," she said.

"The people of Kildare are ready for a break or a night away after the lockdown and are looking forward to treating themselves or loved ones in the run-up to Christmas."

Successive lockdowns have battered the hospitality industry in Galway, but Padraig Lally, who owns Taaffes Bar on Quay Street, is feeling positive for a busy December.

Parties

"This weekend, you see it, people are out and in the shops. Galway is waking up again and it's great to see it," he said.

"December normally kicks off early for us with work parties, but obviously there's none of that.

"I think people will come out and support us. Most of our bookings are done online and I've seen them flooding in over the past few days."

Adrian Cummins, the CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), said it has been a "hectic" few days as the hospitality sector prepares to re-open.

"December usually makes up 30pc of the hospitality sector's profits," he said.

"We're expecting at least €50m across the board."


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