Bean a Tí Bakehouse and Café was established in Limerick in 1963 by Kit Canty, and is now run by her grandsons John and Alan.

All cakes and confectionery are baked on site, and the bakery is a popular destination on Little Catherine Street for a cup of tea and a bun for Limerick people.

The shutters came down on Bean a Tí last week, and all staff - 10 full-time and 2 part-time - were sent home.

It has been a worrying time for the family-run business located in the heart of Limerick City.

"Some staff members have been with us over 20 years and they're family too," said John Canty, Director. "They were there when I was growing up. They were there in my parents' time. We're so lucky to have them."

"Are we going to go back to my grandmother's time? Will we have work for all our employees when this is over?"

John's mother, Helen, still works at the café, and in her 39 years there, she has never seen anything like the closure of businesses due to the virus pandemic.

John's wife, Cora, is a nurse working on the front line.

Big decisions need to be made to support small businesses like his own. He has spoken to Limerick Council about commercial rates, and he is hoping the Government will announce measures to help ease pressure on small businesses.

"We can't continue to pay rates when we're closed," he said. "We're trying to be positive but we are worried that we'll end up going back to zero."

Bean a Tí is not alone. According to a survey by Chambers Ireland, the impact of Covid-19 on the business community in Ireland, the vast majority of whom are SMEs, has been severely felt, with more than 90% experiencing reduced cash-flow and reduced revenue.

Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, "As we publish these results, we are expecting further announcements from Government of tighter restrictions on how people move around and interact with each other. This will further impact the business community."

He said a significant response by the State to support businesses and local economies right across the island is required.  "This must be far-reaching and unlike any intervention we've seen before. These are unprecedented times and therefore need an unprecedented response."

Limerick Chamber today published proposals to protect business and jobs during the crisis, including covering up to 80% of employees' salary and supports for self-employed.

The group also wants the Government to supply every household with a €250 retail and hospitality voucher to spend in local Irish business when crisis ends.

Limerick Chamber’s Chief Economist Dr Catriona Cahill said during a normal recessionary period, we might pause to consider the budgetary repercussions of excessive spending. "Such budget considerations cannot be a priority on this occasion however. While the pandemic shock is expected to be transitory, the economic shock could be persistent if we fail to act swiftly," she said.

"Borrowing rates for sovereigns are at historical lows and Ireland should take advantage of this. It is imperative that the COVID-19 response is funded from additional borrowing and not from previously committed public funds."