Reflections on the Bicentennial
Reflecting back on 200 years of the Licensed Vintners Association, Chief Executive Dónall O’Keeffe tells Pat Nolan that he’d like to believe that it’s now more relevant to its members than ever before, given how the trade has evolved.
27 March 2017 | 0
Today, the LVA operates in a highly regulated sector, one with pressures on it from all sides.
It plays its part in furthering the tourism industry and the broader economy while equally, if not more importantly, it represents the views of its members.
It’s Chief Executive Dónall O’Keeffe would like to think that all this is carried out in a credible and level-headed fashion, that it’s disciplined and strategic about how it represents its members’ views.
“We’d want to be seen as a businesslike representative body,” he explains to me as we sit in his office in the finely-appointed house sitting on three acres that is Anglesea House, the LVA’s Ballsbridge HQ.
Two centuries of significant investment has been made by Association members down through the years – but Anglesea House is a latter-day establishment.
“We bought Anglesea House in the 60s and paid for it over a long time period,” explains Dónall, “Now we’ve a flagship office because the trade sees and believes in a long-term future for the LVA.
“It’s an incredible achievement that a single–county association has survived 200 years and has survived because the members in that county have continued to support it” he continues, “sticking with it and giving it their time as Council members, chairing committees to make the Association what it is today.
“While it’s a matter for each individual publican to run his or her own pub, they need a single voice to speak to government, suppliers and other stakeholders on their behalf and that role remains important and relevant today.
“Look at our agenda for 2017: in the near term Good Friday continues to be a priority; then there’s Minimum Pricing, the Public Health Bill and excise & taxation in the Budget which will reappear on the agenda over the Summer – these all remain pretty relevant to publicans today.”
And the Association continues to evolve, retaining its HR advisory service introduced 15 years ago but dropping the time-consuming pension scheme. In the past six months alone it has brought in Gillian Daly as its Communications Manager to improve not only its social media capability but also communications with both its members and the general public.
Bicentennial calendar of events
The Association has planned a full calendar of events to mark the Bicentenary.
“This landmark in the Association’s history will be celebrated with new product launches, events, token gifts, members’ plaques and exhibitions,” says Dónall, “For example in association with Diageo the LVA has launched a new beer in draught format exclusively to members”.
Guinness Dublin Amber Pale Ale will be available only between March and September but LVA members’ sales of this beer will also benefit the Alone charity with a substantial donation to be handed over in late October, he says.
This donation will help support the expansion of Alone’s befriending network through the recruiting, training and supporting of an additional 250 volunteers to work with older people across the city and help them stay in their homes.
“Community is central to the values of the Dublin pub and we’re delighted that we are able to support the important work Alone does in helping older people to stay in their homes and in the local community.”
Alone has ambitious plans to double the number of housing units it provides for older people to 200 over the next two years.
The LVA has also launched a commemorative whiskey in conjunction with IDL – Powers 1817 – again purely for its members.
On the 31st March a Gala Night will be held in the Mansion House comprising an evening of celebration for the Association’s suppliers, the trade and of course members themselves – “… an all-inclusive celebratory night” as Dónall puts it.
In late April a book on the history of the LVA – more accurately a history of the Dublin pub over the last 200 years – is being launched in association with Powers.
“The LVA is also moving its AGM from its traditional format to the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub, on 3rd May,” adds Donall who promises that the occasion will be different to the normal AGM which is more usually followed by lunch and a guest speaker prior to members enjoying a drink afterwards.
From 28th May until August the LVA is helping mount an exhibition on the Dublin pub in association with Guinness at the Little Museum of Dublin.
June sees the Association hosting a garden party in the grounds of Anglesea House.
And there’s more.
“As one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ the Association bought two casks of Dingle Whiskey and will be presenting each LVA member with a bottle of it towards the end of the year.”
LVA’s quality Council
To this day, the LVA remains the oldest continuously-established association in the country, surviving for 200 years and remaining just as connected to members today, says Dónall, above all because progressive publicans are willing to join Council and help it remain relevant.
“We’ve been blessed by the quality of our Council members” he believes, “a great mix between young and old, city centre and suburban, big and small – and we strive to ensure that we have this mix on a Council that gives of its time gratis. That commitment is ultimately what has kept the trade going.
“While the staff here work hard, it’s the publicans who give their time to meet in the Association or to meet suppliers and government. This means that we’re well-positioned to keep going. The strength of the Association is that it’s run by Dublin publicans for Dublin publicans.”
In staying close to such principles and its roots, is there any reason why the LVA shouldn’t see in another 200 years?