Arklow Leisure Center cafe fears it may never reopen after sudden closure

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As the Coral Leisure Center Arklow closed to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, businesses and voluntary organizations suddenly found themselves without notice trying to find a replacement building.

After the center was closed, Hilda’s Coffee House announced its temporary closure on April 2 via Facebook.

Hilda Airfield, owner of Hilda’s Coffee, said: “First of all I have total sympathy for the people who arrived from Ukraine and the board should be commended for the set up, for the time they had, they did a wonderful job.”

“If I had to criticize anything, it is the planning for the entry of refugees.

“It was absolutely awful. We received no help, no strategy as to what we could leave or how long it would last,” she added.

Hilda’s Coffee House, like many local businesses in Arklow, has had to endure Covid-19. She said: ‘I fought blockades like everyone else and made changes, just in the hope that my business would survive.’

“Things were just starting to improve. After waiting and struggling all this time, for this to happen on April 1st is going to devastate any business.

As there is no timetable for how long Coral Leisure will house refugees, Hilda hopes she will return to her cafe.

“I hope to come back because all the equipment I had installed is specifically for this place,” she said.

“We wanted to welcome anyone from anywhere – that was the principle of the whole place, it was just about having a warm and friendly welcome for anyone to walk through the door.”

“I think people talk about empathy, but we have no idea. I have nothing but sympathy for the Ukrainian people. I will lend my support where I can, and that will always hold. Finished Hilda.

Other organizations like Arklow Vikings Special Olympics Club have been fortunate to find other recreational spaces locally.

Irene Sweeney, founder of Arklow Vikings Speical Club, said: “We just took what we needed, it wasn’t a big sacrifice – we were there to help.”

“We were using Marlborough Hall on Monday evenings, and on Wednesday evenings we now plan to use the Arklow CBS hall after Easter.

Irene said the location of the club was not their problem, it was the need for volunteers.

“We didn’t know if we were going to be able to continue in that regard, a lot of people came back because of Covid.” said Irene.

“But our sacrifice isn’t so bad when you look at all the beds and think about what people are going through.

“We even left some stuff for the kids to play with.

In response to some Arklow clubs criticizing Wicklow County Council, Irene said: “I felt people needed to be more balanced, not everyone was in control of what was happening in the centre.”

“Things change from hour to hour and you have to accept it”

The Arklow Baton Twirlers also began training in the Arklow CBS room Monday night.

Arklow Racquetball Club recently thanked the Coolboy Handball Club for using their facilities on Facebook and said: “Thanks to their generosity our players can continue to train for the next All Irelands”.

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