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Many changes to our way of going out for a drink or a bite to eat introduced courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic could well be here to stay.

The outdoor area at the Catholic Workingmans Club. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
The outdoor area at the Catholic Workingmans Club, one of the first local venues to embrace the great outdoors. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

It could be argued that it was after the smoking ban when some Newry bars looked at novel ways of incorporating their outdoor space to make it feel like an indoor space but for many it was the pandemic that spurred them into action. It has also contributed to a change in thinking what you should wear with warm clothes and coats an essential addition to any night out now!

Outdoor areas at the Brass Monkey, Catholic Workingman's Club, Canal Court, Magees, The Bank, Bellinis, McSwiggans, Nan Rices, Railway Bar, The Bridge,  The Oliver to name some, are more popular than ever and in many cases more used than the venue's indoor seating.

The key test will be how, or if premises adjust to the coming Winter. Some already have heaters and enough covering to keep the worst of the wind or rain away but others may well need to invest.

Something Newry venues haven't embraced is outdoor dining despite Covid-19 regulations which prohibited  it indoors at different stages. Yes some Café's have put a couple of tables outside their doors but it is more a token gesture rather than an 'outdoor dining experience'

A full year after Newry, Mourne and Down Council agreed to issue Pavement Café Licence's free for the first 12 Months, as far as we are aware, not one Newry venue has been issued with the Licence and it is only in the past month or so that local applications have been made.

Carlingford has by necessity embraced the outdoor socialising experience. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Carlingford has by necessity embraced the outdoor socialising experience. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

Parklets are another trend that haven't hit Newry yet although at least one premises is investigating the possibility. Provision of Parklets make sense when pavement space outside premises is limited. The Parklet, a wooden structure with seating and tables and usually plants, replaces two car park spaces outside a Café or Restaurant and is part of a worldwide trend where people are reclaiming their cities and towns from traffic.

One local village that has embraced the outdoor dining experience wholeheartedly is Carlingford where every restuaurant or café has a comfortable area outside for dining, in many cases changing what was dead space where cars parked for hours to space that people can enjoy.

The full story still has to play out and where this journey takes us is unknown but you can be sure that nothing will be quite the same as  pre 2019 -  but it may just be better!

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