Their doors may be closed, but Limerick businesses are receiving support from their customers who are generating cashflow by buying vouchers online.

The initiative aims to ensure that local businesses re-open when restrictions are lifted.

Over 120 businesses have signed up to the 'Lean on Me' scheme, and vouchers to the value of €36,000 have been purchased to date. Not bad considering the website was only set up 3 weeks ago.

Limerick man, Joe Brooks came up with the idea for the scheme, knowing that Limerick people's support right now, will help see businesses reopen in future.

"I wanted to link the customer with the trader, so that you could financially support them for a service later, but also there's an emotional support as well where people know that you are thinking about them as well."

The online portal - leanonme.eu - was built by local man Sean Ryan and his team at elive, and Grid Finance, another local business, manage the safe transfer of funds from the customer to the business.

Brian Hackett is a third generation barber, working 25 years in Figaro Barber Shop on Bedford Row in the city.

He described how business was "fantastic" before Government restrictions to prevent the spread of the pandemic, forced him to close his doors. "We were packed, every day was busy, especially at weekends. Business was fantastic."

He signed up to the 'Lean on Me' voucher scheme, when contacted by Mr Brooks.

"I think keeping Limerick looking like Limerick was really what was in his head, you know," he said. "When we're walking down the street, when this is over, we want to be able to go to the same businesses that we saw before. You don't want to see an empty street. That's what this is all about really."

Next door to Figaro Barbershop is The Buttery restaurant.

"We would have had a very busy trade in Limerick," said owner, Hazel Murphy. "We've been open 6 years on Bedford Row, and we just opened in Browsers on William Street. It was very busy."

In mid-March as she closed up her premises, she said everything felt bleak. "There was no one you could go and ask, 'What will happen?' There was no one you could turn to at all."

The support The Buttery has received from customers through 'Lean on Me' is giving her hope.

"At the end of every week, I sit down and I have a look at the emails that have come in," she said. "It's really lovely, a lot of them have messages of support, and a lot of them are putting them up on Instagram as well."

"A lot of people have reached out to us via 'Lean on Me', just to let us know that we matter, and they're looking forward to when we open again," Ms Murphy said. "It's lovely to get that feedback."

Joe Brooks is not surprised by the buy-in from Limerick people. "We didn't expect these numbers so soon, but I wouldn't really have come up with the idea or we wouldn't have come up with the scheme if we didn't think it was going to be backed."

"When you're from here, you know what people are like. Limerick people back each other. It does bring out the best in us."