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‘We missed our customers terribly’ – Henry’s Bistro embrace heart-warming reopening

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HENRY’S Bistro & Wine Bar reopened last Friday in what was a highly anticipated return for food lovers in the Ennis area.

Established in November 2018 by Dermot Fetton having run The Cloister restaurant previously, the popular restauranteur quickly established an eatery with a reputation for casual, high quality dining. Dermot divulges that the signs for 2020 were “really good” with January and February eclipsing the same period for 2019.

Beginning to see his hard work pay dividends, Dermot admits that closing the doors in early March took a heavy emotional toll. “It was difficult but you bite your tongue and get on with it. On the Sunday, two people came in for food on the Sunday, normally we would do 100 so we made the decision before the Government made the decision.”

The following Wednesday as Dermot prepared to meet his staff to inform them that he would be forced to let everyone go including himself, Dermot admits to becoming overwhelmed by the circumstances. “I was in the kitchen with my wife Noreen and there was an interview on the radio with a Cork restauranteur. I listened to the man and it was all I could do to get out of the house and not let Noreen and Sam see me and I got into the car and I lost it, I absolutely lost it. It was just one of those things, it was overwhelming but you know what, it needed to happen. Then I said to myself, ‘right, that’s it. Now let’s get on with it and do what we need to do’.”

Dermot made the decision to completely halt operations instead of continuing on a takeaway basis and instead spent the last three months with his young family at home. Dermot admits he has admiration for those who continued their food offering on a takeout basis but contended, “I like the hospitality side, I like people coming in. It’s our little experience that we give people.”

Having returned on Friday, Henry’s Bistro & Wine Bar will operate at about 75 per cent capacity due to social distancing measures and will remain open from Wednesday to Sundays (without a lunch offering on Wednesday or Thursdays). Already Dermot says it’s been heartwarming to see that early bookings are in high demand along with dozens of well-wishes coming in. Dermot believes that the dining experienced will actually improve despite current challenges as his team will have more time with customers and understanding their needs.

“I’ve got a couple of great guys in the kitchen and we’re going to formulate a menu, slightly reduced with five starters, five main courses and five desserts. Pricing will remain as was and we’ll just have more time to prepare it so I think in essence the food will be a little bit better.”

Dermot optimistically predicts a strong 2021 will be in store if businesses can survive the next six months, however he doesn’t believe Ennis is well positioned to ride out the current economic storm. “When you look at towns attacking the staycation market at the moment, we’re not in the top 5 there as a destination so I think it’s going to be tough for a lot of businesses, and I don’t think people realise how tough.” Dermot caveats this grim outlook by pointing to the local Clare clientele. “The majority of my business is local and the local support I’ve had is incredible. I never underestimated it and I have never taken it for granted. I think now more than ever, local business is the only thing that’s going to see us through so I think it’s incumbent on us to make sure our product is as good if not better than ever and to give people that sense of welcome and place in your establishment. I think it’s up to ourselves to try and do something to make it attractive for our local customers to visit us.

“Our customers are our friends and I absolutely mean that. I missed them terribly in the time we were away and I can’t wait to get back and see people coming in the door and to welcome them in again.

To book a table at Henry’s Bistro & Wine Bar call (065) 689 9393.

Stuart Holly is the editor and co-founder of The Clare Echo. A native of Ennis, Stuart studied at St Flannan's College before obtaining a journalism degree in Dublin. After interning at The Evening Herald, he landed his first job with The Irish Daily Mail, Stuart worked in newspaper production with the Independent Group and in Auckland, New Zealand before a lengthy spell as a pun-spewing sub-editor at the Irish Daily Star. In 2015, Stuart returned to The Banner County where he took up employment as a news reporter with The Clare People.

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