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What's it like to open a restaurant in Dublin during Covid-19?

By James Fenton

May 19, 2020 at 5:01pm


We've heard the words 'during these uncertain times' so much over the past few weeks that they've pretty much lost all meaning.

However, none of us can get away from the fact that we're all just having to wing it a little bit like never before. Since the introduction of social distancing measures put in place to combat Covid-19, we're all having to get used to a new way of living. That includes parents having to home school their children, customers queuing up in car parks outside supermarkets, and restaurants having to adjust the way they serve the public.

It's difficult enough to manage a business that was already up and running before all this but for those just setting one up, the challenges might leave some questioning whether to wait until life goes back to some degree of normality.

That's not the route chosen by Darren Costello, who spoke exclusively to Lovin Dublin about his decision to open the doors to 31 Lennox in the midst of a pandemic. The new restaurant and cafe is located in Portobello and Darren said that after much mulling over of the decision, he decided to go for it.

"We got the keys in January and gave the place a complete refurb, including a new kitchen. Obviously, we couldn't have predicted what was to come and while everything was on hold, we kept seeing people walking past so we thought 'why not just open?'"

Darren previously managed high-profile venues in the city centre and will launch a new takeaway menu for 31 Lennox this week. He told Lovin that one of his motivations for opening was to "build a good relationship with the local clientele and to use the time to get things running smoothly for when we can open our doors to the public." He added that "we hope to have a lot of the teething issues associated with a new business ironed out and be ready to welcome customers inside at the start of phase 3 of the roadmap."

Having opened recently for takeaway orders, Darren found the challenges brought on by social distancing difficult at first, as he explained: "We opened and pushed online orders and takeaway while adhering to social distancing measures. It was tough at first, however we have seen a steady increase in sales and hope to maintain this part of the business even after restrictions are lifted."

The picture below shows just one of the measures that 31 Lennox will be taking when it enters phase 3, namely the installations of perspex dividers at tables. Darren says that "The uncertainty of table arrangements could be devastating to our business so I hope we can build on our takeaway trade. In the meantime, we are looking at ways to maximise seats while adhering to social distancing by using perspex partitions and sanitising stations in between tables. We will make sure we are fully compliant with all HSE guidelines before we open, to ensure the safety of our staff and customers.”

31 Lennox serves coffee from Bell Lane roasters and everything from breakfast bites like homemade sausage rolls, a hand-carved pastrami Reuben with Russian dressing and sauerkraut for lunch to more substantial dishes during the day. You can have a glimpse of the menu online at this link

As well as offering walk-by services and call and collect on 014439191 or 0896112764 (delivery within 3km), 31 Lennox is already set up with Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eat and Q-Kangaroo set to follow. 

You can find 31 Lennox on the corner of Lennox Street and Synge Street and you can keep up to date on Twitter (@31Lennox) or via their website here.

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