February’s Presidents Report

Happy February, 

We’re off and running, a month into and the new year and the writing is in the wall. Generally, I try and look forward to the new year and what the first month has to offer, often using this time to begin righting the wrongs on the previous year. Plan for the fresh new year ahead, do a spot of renovating and convince yourself that you will do better implementing the changes to your business that you saw needed changing before the Christmas season. So far I’ve done some of what I intended, but mostly I find myself firefighting. Thankfully, our customers are still coming out. The dark cold and wet evenings haven’t perturbed them yet. This time last year when we spent much of January in lock downs and 8pm curfews. On paper, most of us should be up on last year, our turnover boosted only by the fact that we are now fully open. A small positive to take from what’s been a tough start to the year.

The out of control costs of doing business have yet to ease. The Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS), though complicated to fill out, has been of great assistance to those who qualify. I urge you all to log on and make your claim. To date, businesses in general have been slow to make their submissions and while we seek to keep the VAT at 9%, it’s imperative that government see our sector as one that requires and needs further economic assistance. While you’re at it I also urge you to bang on the door of any politician that will listen to you. The retention of our 9% VAT is key to a lot of us surviving this year. An estimated 1 in every 5 restaurants are at risk should we lose it. This is the single biggest threat to our sector.

I’m going to keep the next part of this local to Kildare, and more importantly to that of home town Kildare. After living here all my life and starting of my education in what is still St Brigid’s National School, it is only fitting that I speak more about that same patron saint and that of the new business opportunities that have risen from the Brigid 1500 celebrations that begin on St Brigid’s day, the 1st of February. Always celebrated on the first day of Spring, this holy day has now rightfully been awarded a new bank holiday. Celebrated on what will be the first Monday of the month unless the 1st falls on a Friday, in that year the Friday will be the bank holiday. A great initiative to allow the 1st fall more often on weekend day, something we can all appreciate.

Here in Kildare we have gone Brigid mad, our businesses both sit on market square and a stone’s throw away from what is St Brigid’s Cathedral, the site where she founded a monastery in the year 480. Like most other business in the town and community, we have seen the interest of St. Brigid swell in the last month. A series of planned events, concerts, shows, walks and talks to name a few have been planned. A year of Brigid 1500 is being organised and interest from far and wide is growing. We even had An Taoiseach down last week to visit some of the historical sites. Chatting with him in Firecastle, we spoke about the positive energy around and about what the holiday will bring to the country and the town. With St Brigid’s Day being given the recognition that it finally deserves, it’s another holiday that we can all benefit from. With plenty of other towns getting in on the action with stories of St. Brigid, the patron saint of brewing, I might add. The new bank holiday is a positive for our industry.

Happy start of spring everybody.

Yours in hospitality,
Paul Lenehan – President

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