By Suzanne Pender
THE LONG wait is finally over! Grey, unruly hair is gone, chipped nails and unwanted hair a distant memory, the prospect of a meal out and the much-missed creamy pint … now all within your grasp.
Phase three of the country’s exit from lockdown saw some of our favourite businesses reopen yesterday, including hairdressers, beauticians, hotels and pubs – albeit only pubs that serve food. There was an air of cautious optimism across the county as businesses threw open their doors, many reopening for the first time in 15 weeks.
Many businesses have invested heavily in preparing their premises for reopening, including Perspex screens, hand sanitiser stations and rearranging their floor space to ensure that social distancing and all the necessary guidelines are observed by their customers.
“It’s great to be back, but we are facing lots of challenges and there are changes,” explained William Burke, general manager of the Talbot Hotel, Carlow. “Every process and procedure had to be reviewed and changed … our health and safety guidelines rewritten and there has been a massive amount of work behind the scenes.”
Extensive training with staff, additional signage and an incredible 46 hand sanitation stations within the hotel all had to be put in place. The Talbot Hotel now also implements strict sanitisation, with its pool and dressing room facilities sanitised every hour along with frequent spot checks, while ‘touch points’ within the hotel, such as door handles and railings, are cleaned every 15 minutes.
“There is a lot of responsibility on the public, too, to adhere to the measures. We can have everything in place, but you can’t force people, so there has to be responsibility there, too,” said William. “We are also very aware that people pay for an experience and need to feel comfortable and relaxed,” he added.
The Talbot Hotel’s gym and swimming pool is open to hotel guests from Monday, with gym members welcome from this Wednesday. However, the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi remain closed.
The Dome Family Entertainment Centre, also owned by the Talbot Hotel, will open to hotel guests today (Tuesday), followed by members of the public on Wednesday. People are advised to book, as only 25 children are allowed at a time in the soft-play area.
Michelle Bolger, owner of Beauty Republic, Carlow is delighted to be back again, adding that it has been an extremely busy week coming up to the reopening. “We were only given a week’s notice that we could reopen, so that was only a week to reorganise rosters, book in clients and be Covid-ready,” she explains.
Beauty Republic now has two teams, which ultimately means fewer clients in the building at the same time. They’ve also staggered appointments, while longer working hours have been put in place. Therapists will be wearing masks, visors and aprons, while Perspex screens have also been put in place.
“A lot of our work is face-to-face contact, so because of that we have taken some treatments off the menu,” explains Michelle. “Really, time is key and you have to minimise the amount of face-to-face contact, but also you don’t want to lose that personal contact with our clients.”
Michelle says that the lockdown has had its positive sides, including an opportunity to carry out work at the salon, participate in online courses and also to build relationships with salon owners all over the country. “That has been great to touch base with other beauty salons and all bounce ideas off one another because there really is that sense that we’re all in it together,” said Michelle.
Monday 29 June couldn’t come quick enough for Lynda Maher, owner of Lynda Maher Hair Studio, Carlow. She described the last three months as “dreadful”, as the normally busy Lynda coped with the restrictions of lockdown.
“We are absolutely delighted to be open here today and we have everything in place to keep clients and staff safe,” she added.
Lynda has extended the premises to allow greater social distancing between chairs, painting all the additional areas in the salon herself. Perspex screens have been erected, while all of the stylists wear visors, have their own sanitiser and are in possession of their own kit, to avoid the sharing of hairspray, brushes or any equipment.
“I was very worried about some of our older ladies if they would come back, but I’m delighted to see that they have,” said Lynda. “I’m opening from 7am six days a week for them so that they can come in early and then the salon hours are from 8am to 8pm, six days a week. I’m delighted to be able to bring back all our stylists on the same number of hours and I’ll be here every day to make sure everything is working well,” she said.
“We’ve had a lot of bookings … three of our stylists are booked solid for the next five weeks.”