The landmark Queen's pub in Dalkey, Co Dublin, is set to reopen after it was purchased by hoteliers Ray Byrne and Eoin Doyle for €3.5 million.
The previous owners, former AIB chief executive and one-time Aer Lingus chairman Tom Mulcahy and his wife, June, informed staff last summer that the pub would not reopen and that they were to retire after the Covid-19 pandemic forced them to close their doors.
They paid an estimated €7 million for the pub in 2003, and said the decision to close the pub left them “with a huge sense of loss”. Mr Mulcahy added at the time: “The Covid cocooning gave us time for reflection. We realised that our time for retirement had arrived.”
On Tuesday Mr Byrne said he and Mr Doyle intended to reopen the premises as a pub, initially for outdoor dining, from June 7th. They are putting an initial €500,000 into its refurbishment.
"We believe in the Queen's," he said. "We bought it off Thomas Mulcahy, who owned it for 17 years. Tom did a great job with it. It probably needed a little bit of reinvention, but it will remain the Queen's, established 1745, for as long as it's in our ownership.
“We’re not bringing builders in but we’ve stripped the decor inside, so it’s getting a complete refresh. If this is the summer of outdoor dining – if the summer ever arrives – there is plenty of space. There is a lovely terrace at the front, and there is a large area at the back, which was a car park. We’ll have lots of outdoor dining in the short term.
“That’ll give us a chance to get the work done inside. There’ll be new furniture, new finishings, new fittings. But it’s an old building, and we’re leaving that intact. There’ll be a few stoves to make it nice and cosy for next winter.”
Mr Byrne and Doyle own and operate a number of other properties in the hospitality sector, including the well known Eccles Hotel in Glengariff, Co Cork, via a vehicle called NHance.
Mr Byrne said the “longer-term” plan is to open a boutique hotel at the Queen’s property with 25 rooms at the back of the premises.
“In the longer term, apart from reinventing the business back to the levels it was at in the past, what we feel Dalkey is missing is something like a village hotel,” he said.
“So, we’d love to do a boutique hotel. There is a car park at the back. It’s not used because the days of driving to the pub are long gone, and it would be nice to develop that aspect of the site and give Dalkey something that it doesn’t currently have.
“We’d hope to get planning permission by the end of the year, all going well, but it’s in the lap of the planners and the gods after that.”
Mr Byrne said there would be job opportunities for the equivalent of 30 full-time staff. “We have interviewed some of the former staff and are happy to invite them along, but the previous owner made all the staff redundant, so a lot of them are gone on to other things,” he said.
“It’s interesting as well, after the pandemic, a lot of them are saying they’ve decided not to work in hospitality any more. The weekends, the long hours and the late nights – people are re-evaluating their future.”
Mr Byrne added that there was great local excitement at the pub’s rescue. “It’s amazing. We’re there every second day with the guys tiling or redecorating, and if you stand at the entrance for any more than two minutes, someone will come along and ask you, ‘Is Queen’s going to reopen?’ I’ve never been involved in a business where people were so delighted to see it reopening.”