Flanagan’s plays the long game
A pub and restaurant took out a loan from a bank to help it recover from the Covid-19 shutdown — with a twist.
Flanagan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on Front Street did not borrow cash from Butterfield Bank — the owners instead jumped at an offer from the financial institution’s executives to take over its first-floor balcony, which is joined to their own.
Now it is thought the pub has the longest balcony in Bermuda’s history at 150ft.
Chris Garland, the general manager and a director of Harbourside Holdings, which owns Flanagan’s, said it was “a game changer” and a great example of businesses helping one another over the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “It floored us, because it was incredible. We knew this was going to be a game changer for us. It has just about put everyone back to work. They had a beautiful wooden cedar rail, and we had this metal rail on our side. We took those down and opened up the porch. There is no gap, it was already connected.”
Mr Garland added: “They have offered it to us through the reopening of Bermuda phases and then it is going to be negotiated as we go forward.
“The public and the staff are loving it. We are not playing any music over there, or allowing any smoking, it is just an extra dining area.”
He said: “We’ve got more social-distancing, and you don’t need to put up partitions because it is outdoors. [The Department of] Health and Safety, the fire department and the Liquor Licensing Authority all signed off on it. We extended the licensing on to that area.”
Mr Garland said Flanagan’s had applied to use the balcony in the past.
He added: “It is a bank helping out a local business, and Michael Neff was a big part of that. He is on the economic advisory committee.”
The agreement is mutually beneficial. The extra space is being used for diners to enjoy meals overlooking Hamilton Harbour and meant the business had been able to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with a boosted capacity for al fresco dining.
Michael Neff, managing director, Bermuda, at Butterfield Bank, said: “Butterfield’s priority throughout the Covid-19 crisis has been to do what we can to support the financial wellbeing of Bermudians and assist with the island’s economic recovery. Making our second floor balcony at head office available to Flanagan’s allows one of our favourite Hamilton establishments to get back to business, serving more customers in safety, and getting more people back to work.”
Harbourside Holdings also operates The Snug Cafe, the Outback Sports Bar and The Loft, in the Emporium Building on Front Street, together with Divots, at Belmont Golf Course in Warwick.
Mr Garland said the company was diverse — 33 of its 48 staff are Bermudian and only one of its senior positions is held by someone from overseas.
The business closed in April and May because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Garland said: “We decided to sit back and not get involved in the kerbside stuff in May, and decided to slow down and get this right.”
Flanagan’s reopened on June 3 and, when the Government announced al fresco dining as an option for bars and restaurants, the business was approached by the bank with the offer to use the balcony.
The balcony at Flanagan’s could seat 40 customers, but with social-distancing that was cut by half.
Mr Garland said: “Using the bank porch and including the social-distancing, the total is now 65 people.”
He also praised the Government for the support it has given to the industry.
He said: “The relief they have given us, the unemployment benefit, the social insurance and the private pension, payroll tax — those are massive wins that will help everyone survive.”
Deon Mills, president of Harbourside Holdings, thanked the Government for the support it had given with unemployment benefit, and said how valuable that was not only to Bermudians, but also for the company’s few guest workers. He also thanked the Government for its pensions payment initiatives.
While Mr Garland added: “We are also very grateful for the support shown by our landlord, Dr Wilfrid Robinson. He has shown an understanding of our situation and has done everything possible to help with our survival”.
Flanagan’s is now open, as is The Snug Cafe and the Outback Sports Bar, although social-distancing restrictions have reduced capacity.
Mr Garland said the business has 42 out of its 48 staff back at work.
He said: “I’ve retired two, sent two work-permit holders home and just have two more Bermudians to bring back in the next two weeks and then I’m back to capacity.”
But he added: “While I’m happy for our company, I’m very understanding that it is not this good for everybody in Bermuda, and all my colleagues are going through very difficult challenges.”
This article has been updated to include a quote from Butterfield Bank.
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