It's been a challenging year for the hospitality industry, but for Panti Bliss – the LGBTQ+ icon and owner of PantiBar and Penny Lane in Dublin – June marks what will hopefully be the end of the struggles.

Rory O'Neill aka Panti Bliss joined the Jennifer Zamparelli show on 2FM to talk about Pride month, lockdown and the reopening of bars. But before all that, the performer spoke about his return to the stage as he takes part in Rock Against Homelessness, a night of music and entertainment in aid of Focus Ireland.

Covid-19 affected the homeless community harshly, and as O'Neill says, that the pandemic "made the homelessness crisis and those who were actually sleeping on the street so much more visible".

Rory O'Neill aka Panti Bliss joined the Jennifer Zamparelli show on 2FM

"I live and work in Dublin 1 and I see a lot of it", he adds. "I've been involved in Rock Against Homelessness before but I'm particularly glad to do it this year." Pillow Queens, Wyvern Lingo, and Gilbert O'Sullivan are among the lineup for this year, and all proceeds of the €23 tickets go towards Focus Ireland.

"I'm just delighted to be starting to do things again", he says. "One of the other benefits of doing it online is the magic of technology. I'm not necessarily in one particular venue because I can magically appear in different ones thanks to pre-record trickery!

"It also means that unlike in previous years, when you're limited to the capacity of the Olympia and the money raised is capped, this year as many people as you want can watch it online."

The reopening of bars was a "relief", he says, as he had been vocal about the difficulties facing certain industries during the pandemic. "I have a finger in two different pies. One is the hospitality industry and the other is the live entertainment industry, and both of them were just ended.

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"But I'm very grateful that for the bar there were government supports which meant that we did actually have a bar last Monday to open the doors of.

"I felt that there were a few particular industries that were asked to make a much greater contribution to the fight against Covid than others and that sometimes that was being forgotten."

Despite a two week period last summer, O'Neill's bars had remained closed for 15 months and the only reason PantiBar was able to reopen was that the Council gave them the use of two parking spaces for outdoor seating.

When asked how he found the pandemic, O'Neill is candid, saying, "in the very, very, very beginning, I quite enjoyed it".

"Knowing that there wasn't going to be any emails waiting for me to answer, knowing I didn't have to run off here and sit up all night preparing me wigs! But I got over that very quickly. The longer it went on it became trying. There's a helpless quality about it where you weren't able to fight for it."

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While many of us will be taking lessons from our year out of our typical routines – more sleep, less technology, less travel, more quality time with friends, etc. – O'Neill is just eager to get back to how things were.

"I love my life, I wanted to get back to it!" he tells Jen. "Yes, of course, like anybody there are days when you don't feel like doing your job or you get tired."

And the next month is sure to be one of his busiest as Pride 2021 kicks off, with a slew of mostly online events leading up to the main event on 26 June.

"The whole point of Pride is to get out and be really visible through the streets. It's really disappointing again that we can't do that, but everybody understands. I'm sure on the day itself, the kids will all be out and I hope they have a great time safely."

Listen back to the full interview here.