The Glyde Inn in Annagassan won the overall Irish Pub of the Year 2018 at the Irish National Pub Awards. Guest of Honour at the event was the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin TD who told an audience of just over 350 that while he himself had fought against the recent Budget VAT increase in the hospitality industry he’d also tried to increase the budget allocated to the tourist drive to compensate.
The nine category winners were selected from over 500 applicants in this national awards programme jointly presented by the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association.
“The Glyde Inn and all tonight’s winners are leading examples of what the Irish Pub is about” said VFI President Padraic McGann (himself a fourth generation publican) at the Awards, “a friendly destination to meet family and friends to enjoy good food, drinks, music and entertainment, where tourists can mix easily with locals to experience an Irish atmosphere at its best.
“We’re delighted these Awards showcase what our publicans offer in terms of creativity, innovation and excellence. Publicans have adapted to changing consumer demands and are now offering excellent casual dining, contemporary beers and spirits, tourist attractions and overall entertainment to suit all types of customer”.
LVA Chairman Alan Campbell, who also presented the awards on the night, added, “The Irish Pub Awards has established itself as the definitive awards programme within the industry as it is set up to reward all aspects of the sector throughout the country. There’s great value for pubs entering the awards in terms of excellent national and local media coverage along with the in-depth management training our 63 regional winners receive. We’re delighted to have come together with the VFI on this great initiative”.
The Irish Pub of the Year Awards has the Irish Independent as a media partner, Drinks Industry Ireland magazine as trade media partner, Febvre Wine Company as wine partner and Skillnet Ireland as management development partner.
Overall Winner/Best Food Pub sponsored by Musgrave Foodservices: The Glyde Inn, Annagassan
The County Louth pub was crowned national champion after winning the Best Food Pub category, one of nine announced at the awards. Dating back to 1770, The Glyde Inn was bought by Paul and Ann O’Neill in 1978 who still operate it in an “authentic, untouched and unhurried” manner. It quickly became a destination pub with a reputation for good food, drink, music and craic.
In 2008 the O’Neills extended the premises overlooking Dundalk Bay and the Mountains of Mourne to include the Linn Duachaill Restaurant and a Bed and Breakfast. Paul and Ann now look after this but the restaurant and pub are managed by their son Conor.
The pub’s award-winning menu includes seafood caught by fishermen in Dundalk Bay and Carlingford, some of which has been flavoured by Conor’s own experience gained during food trips to continental Europe.
Each September The Glyde Inn hosts The Taste of Togher Festival as part of the Discover Boyne Valley Flavours events.
“Speechless” just about summed-up the family’s reaction to being named Irish Pub of the Year.
“To win the overall Irish Food Pub award was fantastic but to win Pub of Year we were absolutely speechless,” remembers Conor, “We didn’t know what to say, it was so unexpected.
“For me and my parents who put so much work into it over the years it was a huge pat on the back as they’ve gone through tough times and good times. And I just came along in recent times to give it a lift with some new ideas, but it’s also testament to the staff and the kitchen team who work very well together.”
And they’ve certainly noticed a pickup in trade since winning.
“Every second person coming in is congratulating us and social media has them doing so from all over the world,” he tells Drinks Industry Ireland, “People who haven’t been into us for some time are now on our radar and they’re beginning to come back in again.”
For Conor, the overarching lesson is that a rural pub can survive particularly thanks to the internet and the fact that the pub is the top tourist attraction in Ireland.
“The rural Irish pub is authentic and that’s what people want to see,” he says, “Hopefully rural pubs are bucking the trend now.”
The Glyde Inn has concentrated on events such as food and entertainment.
“We’ve gone a little bit outside the box in that there are other pubs around the country that focus on food or entertainment and we’ve tried to merge the ‘two’ into a tangible ‘one’ via opera nights, comedy nights and trad nights – all including food and entertainment as a package which we do really well.”
As for winning the Best Food Pub Award, Conor puts it down to using local produce.
“Our location is on the East Coast seafront,” he explains, “You can go out the back, go on a boat and bring your fish home. The seafront comes right onto the restaurant and we’re able to tell customers, ‘There’s Cahill out there now fishing for your crab claws’.”
A member of Boyne Valley Flavours (which encourages use of local produce) the pub publicises this to give local producers recognition.
The pub is also located in the largest Viking settlement in Europe and aims to do something with this in 2019.
“We’re putting together a seafood trail from Omeath to Drogheda including Annagassan and the aim of this is to make the North East of Ireland a seafood destination thereby attracting domestic and international visitors.
“We’ve also linked Annagassan with another Viking town in Spanish Galicia – Catoira – for seafood and we’re in the process of creating an exchange programme to exchange food, historical and tourism education by putting a package together between the two areas.”
All in all, Conor sees The Glyde Inn’s secret as offering an authentic Irish experience on the doorstep of Dublin.
Annagassan and The Glyde Inn is Ireland’s hidden gem. As Conor likes to say, “We’re 40 minutes from Dublin but a million miles away”.
Best Outdoor Space sponsored by Bulmers: Franciscan Well Brewpub, Cork
This newly-covered & newly-heated beer garden situated on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery is one the largest beer gardens in Cork city.
Colourful flower displays in Summer strive to distract the customer from watching the brewers at their work and – especially during the Christmas period – the space hosts markets and live music. The pub is in the process of creating a no-smoking terrace in the beer garden.
When she heard it had won the Best Outdoor Space award the Franciscan Well Brewpub’s Kate Clancy was really surprised as they’d looked at the competition and felt they were up against some great competitors.
“We just wanted to come along on the night to meet the other bars but we didn’t expect to win it,” she tells Drinks Industry Ireland.
“50% of our business is our beer garden, especially for festivals etc so the work has actually paid-off,” she says, “The beer garden and the bar as a tourist destination are two of our main drivers.”
But what does winning this award mean to her personally?
“Personally, sometimes I think I need to get a life,” she laughs, “I’m thrilled. I’ve been here three years and when something like this comes around it means that you’re given some recognition for keeping these spaces up-to-date.”
The pub has made a special effort with putting up its Christmas lights since winning the award to make the garden look that bit more special.
“A lot of our Christmas bookings have actually asked to be put in the beer garden as a result,” she says.
The pub works really hard to keep the outside consistent and keeps up the flower display during the Sumer months with 80 flower baskets hanging down.
It has also bought in new furniture and put in grass too.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable sitting outside” says Kate, “and as we run beer festivals everyone knows about the Franciscan Well’s beer garden for this.”
Best Tourist Pub sponsored by Molson Coors: The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega, Cork
This bar has made a point of appealing to the increasing number of cruise ships docking at Cork port and now hosts some of the country’s best trad musicians twice a day (lunchtime and evening sessions) while The Old Town Whiskey Bar’s customers enjoy the pub’s fare.
Every day it offers guided whiskey-tastings and has even installed its staff into Cork’s independent tourist office where it sets up a miniature bar serving samples of beer from its microbrewery – and of course directing visitors to the pub!
“Personally I’m was delighted for my family and colleagues “ states The Old Town Whskey Bar’s Leo McCabe, “we’d a shared vision and we just went for it.”
While it’s early days yet, he’d be hoping that the accolade would help boost business and footfall for the 2019 season.
“We stuck true to our word and did not deviate from our core mission of delivering fresh local produce ,” he continues, “We source locally and are proud to showcase local producers. Providence is key, not only must you know what you’re selling, you must have faith in it too also . We work hard with Rising Sons Brewery to pair fresh local produce with fresh local craft beer. It’s a marriage made in heaven.”
“The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega is actually on the site of St Peters Market,” he adds, before going on to explain its significance.
“A little-known fact about Cork is that during the English occupation Catholics were prevented from buying meat in the English Market. So they had to come to St Peter’s Market on the coal quay which was located inside the structure. The flagstone remains on the wall – a hidden gem in the history of Cork City.”
Innovative Pub of Year sponsored by BOI Payment Acceptance:Two Sisters, Terenure
The Two Sisters are early risers, offering their customers a range of services beginning at 7am with ‘Shergar’s Retreat’, a converted horsebox serving hot coffee to the appreciative pedestrian.
The pub also goes to great lengths to help coeliacs enjoy its food, offering gluten-free stuffing for the Sunday roast and making use of an air fryer for its chips.
Such touches have paid dividends in terms of increased weekly business for The Two Sisters, firm believers in branding as can be seen from their preparedness to cater for customers at home on request.
Not surprisingly, Two Sisters proprietor Deirdre Devitt likes these awards!
“These LVA & VFI awards have been created for all the right reasons,” she says, “They’re non-commercial and very fair and they’re open for pubs countrywide to get involved.
“It’s great to see our hard work recognised,” she continues, “Some of our ideas have been good and some bad but on the whole it has been good for the staff & customers alike.
“Any pub can innovate and no matter where or who you are, you need to concentrate on your strengths.”
Lots of Christmas events have been lined up for Shergar’s Retreat but the win has also made a difference to trade.
“A couple who I went to school with and their daughter came down specially and there have been a good few calls for bookings since reading about it in the papers,” she says. And she’s the first to admit that the competition was fierce.
“But I think that we won because we’re not a huge pub yet we really have tried to push the boundaries of trade and create additional opportunities and add-on business to the pub,” she believes.
Best Music Pub sponsored by IMRO:Warehouse Bar+Kitchen, McGettigans Hotel, Letterkenny
With live music seven nights a week The Warehouse Bar+Kitchen at McGettigans Hotel in Letterkenny goes big on promoting local talent and always has a place for up-and-coming acts.
But it’s not just about local talent; every couple of months, the town centre bar will host a household name free-of-charge for its customers; names such as Paddy Casey, Hermitage Green and Ryan Sheridan or top DJs such as the Belfast Limelight’s Conar Jay, Krystal’s Keith McLaughlin and Kathryn Wilson.
“To be awarded ‘Best Music Pub’ out of all the Irish pubs in the country is an unbelievable honour and it’s a testament to our ever-growing popularity as a brand,” says the Warehouse’s Lisa Crampsie, “We’re very proud of our staff & grateful to all our customers who’ve helped turn Warehouse Bar+Kitchen into a household name throughout Ireland and further afield.”
The bar is just over its second year-mark now, the baby of The McGettigan Group which opened at a time in the industry when some might say was still risky.
“We kept things simple, but made sure we did it better than anyone else which is why I think we are where we are today.
“This year alone has seen the likes of Jake Carter, The Blizzards and Ryan Sheridan play the Warehouse stage,” she continues. Being from the area, she says that it was clear in the few days after winning the award that there had been an increase in numbers in the evenings “… which were not our regulars.
“In talking to a few of them I found out they’d seen our win on social media platforms and came to check the venue out.”
The Warehouse will not, however, be resting on its laurels. 2019 is set to be another big year. In the meantime, “… truth be told we’re still enjoying our win,” says Lisa, adding that, “The Warehouse Bar+Kitchen is fast gaining iconic status and this award is a testament to that”.
Outstanding Customer Service sponsored by Heineken: Hi Way Bar, Dooradoyle, Limerick
The prominence of the over-and-beyond customer service levels at the Hi Way Bar in Limerick’s Dooradoyle often features most favourably in online guest comments. In this case, thanks to a solid premises and equally solid product, customer service is direct with all staff given the confidence and authority to make on-the-spot decisions thanks to in-depth training and the ongoing encouragement of management. This means that they can there-and-then offer to generously compensate an unhappy customer and can – and do – follow it up to ensure a happy outcome.
Winning this award shows that the pub is hiring the right people, believes the Hi Way Bar’s proprietor Tommy O’Sullivan.
“We’re like a local suburban pub where the staff have very good relations with their customers,” he commented, “We’re very customer-focused and know them very well. We know what time they arrive, when they’ll leave and what they drink. The staff are also aware of when they haven’t turned up – it’s not clinical but intuitive. It’s like a real community-based bar. We understand our customers and their needs.”
The pub’s location beside University Hospital Limerick means that it also gets a lot of people coming in after visiting the hospital.
“We make them feel welcome and our staff are aware that they might be in a bad situation and can read that situation. Some are in there gathering their thoughts after leaving the hospital and we’re aware of that.”
To Tommy, the award shows that his staff are “genuine people who’re genuinely caring with their customers”.
Best Local Pub sponored by Diageo: Kenny’s of Lucan, Dublin
Supporting its local sports teams, sponsoring its local school initiatives and partnering with local charities through to hosting coffee mornings, residents meetings or work parties – these form some of the reasons that Kenny’s of Lucan won the Best Local Pub Award.
Others believe that while they provide a great serve of food and drink, they also provide entertainment for the local area to enjoy.
“To win the regional award was big surprise,” says proprietor Gerry Kenny’s son Danny, “I was on honeymoon in South Africa at the time so it was a nice call to get!”
Kenny’s will have been in operation 50 years next year and the pub has never won anything like this before, “…so we’d no expectations going into the national awards. We were just delighted to be there.”
He’s aware too that Kenny’s was up against some really stiff competition.
“We went in with no great hope so were absolutely delighted when our name was pulled out of the hat!”
Danny sees the award as validation for all the hard work put in not only by himself and his dad but by the whole team of 35 staff there.
“Business has been good over last 18 months to two years,” he says, “We finished a big renovation in March 2017 and since then we’ve seen a great upturn in business – in our food in particular.”
He believes it a great honour to be recognised by their peers and has noticed a bit of an uplift in passing trade since the regional announcement (which they celebrated with a Customer Appreciation Night).
He puts the win down to the staff and there being a good product mix.
“At the end of the day people come in because they’re well looked-after by our staff who work hard at it,” he says.
Pub Personality of the Year sponsored by Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard: Brian Barrett, Gearys Bar, Cork
Thirty-six year-old Brian Barrett of Geary’s Bar in Cork has already acquired the knack of making you feel like you belong. For among his many talents is the ability to remember a face – always.
He knows who’s who and knows too of who lives alone and will even go so far as to organise a birthday surprise for these customers as well as the other regulars to Geary’s, not stopping short of organising the obligatory balloons too.
“Winning this award is a bit different to winning the other awards, a bit weird,” he confides, “Still, it’s something you can work on.
“But it’s good to know you’re doing things right. I don’t know exactly what criteria I won it on, but if I did I must be doing something right,” he says modestly.
Since winning the award the pub has seen everyone coming in to congratulate him and wanting to see the award.
“… and that includes people I didn’t think would even know about it and it’s been in the papers all week so it’s been good for business.
“People that do come in know that this prize has been awarded to their local so it’s good for our customers too.”
As for just why he thinks he won the award, he just pauses and then says, “I just try and be as nice as I can and put my good side out all the time – I try and give the customers a good experience when they come into the bar and I try and help this by creating a good atmosphere… But as I don’t know why I won, I’m just guessing now!”.
Best Newcomer sponsored by Hennessy: Sandyford House, Dublin
When Dan Foley, Terry Mulvey, Alan Murtagh and Frank Gordon acquired Sandyford House they’d always intended to bring this outlet back to its former glory, re-integrating it with the surrounding Sandyford village community on Dublin’s south-side suburb.
Mission accomplished as the pub has enjoyed high levels of custom from the community from the outset and offers prospective diners home-baked bread and home-made desserts from its kitchen on a daily basis.
The bar area is striking and the colours used in the revamp suit the tone of the premises – especially under the carefully thought-out lighting which helps highlight the more unusual aspects of the décor.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the award,’ says Sandyford House General Manager Dan Foley, “As well as being a great honour to receive the award from our peers in the drinks industry, it’s a testament to the food we offer, the warmth of our welcome and of course to all of our customers who create the atmosphere.
“It’s nice for all the hard work over the last year to be acknowledged by the industry and for our customers and staff to have been recognised as well.
“It’s amazing for the business too – out of all the new pubs around the country we were chosen as being the best – well, you can’t do better than that! The award has given us a massive PR boost and allows us to promote ourselves to a whole new audience.
“This award is for all our staff and all our customers and I’m delighted to have been part of the team who were part of the win.”
Since winning the regional award new faces have been coming through the door “… and there are even more new faces now that we’ve won the overall award.”
Dan reckons that the reasons behind Sandyford House winning the award can be put down to “… the friendliness of our team and the warmth of our welcome, the quality, variety and value of the food offering available – ‘Better than Bistro, Greater than Gastro’, the selection of beers, wines, cocktails and spirits on offer and the unique design, artwork and furnishings”.
But more than that, “We’ve hand-picked a team who give the warmest of welcomes and deliver the highest level of customer service”.