The lack of guests has made us appreciate just how vital they are to a hotel. “You become very aware of the fact that it’s just a building when there are no guests. It’s great to get the work done and give everything a refresh, but the life and soul of the hotel, is the guests and the team that work here.”
The world has changed immeasurably in the past few months, and nowhere has been more affected than the hotel industry. With the country’s hotels forced to close their doors in March, and foreign travel only just now becoming viable again, it’s unclear when – or even if – things will get back to normal. Indeed, the current lockdown has resulted in some strange living arrangements; adult children living with parents, unlikely roommates forced together, extended families cramped under one roof.
That strangeness has extended to the Press Up group, where, during the lockdown, two managers stayed in their hotels, hospitality castaways who, despite the strange circumstances, have adapted to a new normal weirder than any of us could have forecast at the turn of the year.
The Dean officially closed on March 23rd and reopened again to guests on June 29th. Throughout the lockdown, Dave had used this time to be as productive as possible. “It’s a good opportunity to get work done in the building, on jobs big or small that we didn’t want to do before, as they would have impacted on guests. For example, we are getting a lot of work done on Sophie’s, so that will have a refresh before we re-open.” The lack of guests has made him appreciate just how vital they are to a hotel. “You become very aware of the fact that it’s just a building when there are no guests. It’s great to get the work done and give everything a refresh, but the life and soul of it is the guests and the team that work here.
Located in the row of imposing Georgian townhouses that make up Harcourt Street, it’s fair to say The Dean was something of a game changer on the Irish hotel scene when it opened nearly six years ago. Dave O’Keeffe, from Cork, is the hotel’s general manager; he moved into the hotel the day before St. Patrick’s Day, when it became clear that the hospitality industry was going to take an enforced hiatus. “I moved in initially so I could lend support to the team here, and once we made the decision to close, I stayed here to take care of the building.”
It hasn’t been soul destroying – I love the building and I love what we do here, and from that point of view it makes it easier, as we can see the progress being made on a day-to-day basis.” Coronavirus will of course have a huge impact on the hospitality industry globally, and Dave and his team have used the time to start thinking of ways to adapt to what will be a very different post-pandemic world. “Over the past few weeks we have had to re-evaluate pretty much everything, from the clothing that housekeeping wear to how we cater for our meetings and weddings and events,” he says.
“We have a totally different approach to how we are cleaning the building and servicing public areas; everything has to be broken down and reassembled with a different perspective, just so we can be sure that everyone is safe and secure.” Guest interaction will also change, he says.
“We have so many regular guests, and in the past, when I would see them in the lobby, I’d go over and give them a hug straight away, but now there’ll be no physical interaction. We have to make everything as comfortable and seamless as possible while still functioning as a hotel – it makes you realise just how many interactions we have with guests,” he adds.
Dave has been trying to use the time as productively as possible, and of course, his lodgings could be a lot worse. “I had been living in the penthouse,” he laughs. “The fortunate thing is the penthouse is kitted out with a kitchenette, so I can cook if I want, which makes it a bit more like home.” Not that he has been cooking as much as he might have. “I have been a fairly good customer of Doolally and Wow Burger,” he says.
“If you had said to me two months ago, I would be living like a castaway, I wouldn’t have thought that it was going to be appealing,” he says. “But, it’s been very comfortable; I try to avoid watching the news during the evening, and instead try to get a lot of stuff done to keep busy and active. I brought a guitar down from the penthouse, just to play songs in the lobby to entertain myself in the evening. I think we are all that bit tougher than we realise.”