Galway restaurateur: ‘We have kinda lost everything to a certain degree’

Inside Business podcast: JP McMahon says no guarantee Michelin outlet will reopen

Galway-based chef and restaurant owner JP McMahon has said his business is in a battle for “survival” and there is no guarantee than his Michelin-star restaurant Aniar will survive the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

“For this year it’s really about survival,” he told Inside Business, an Irish Times podcast. “It’s about how many of us can survive. It’s going to be a very long winter to wait until next March for the season to start again. We have kinda lost everything to a certain degree. It’s 12 years’ work.”

Restaurants will be allowed to reopen on June 29th but Fáilte Ireland guidelines this week state that 2m physical distancing should be observed, drastically reducing capacity in venues.

McMahon hopes this will be reduced to 1m, which he says would allow him to reopen Cava Bodega, his Spanish tapas restaurant, and possibly the Tartare cafe and wine bar, but he admits there is a question mark over the future of Aniar.


“I know the figures in Aniar, I know our market, it’s 70 per cent cent American tourists. That’s our model. Can it survive? I don’t know, I hope it can but at the same time I need to reopen and we will be focusing on Cava and Tartare first and then we’ll see. We have to focus on what we can do.”

He said Cava was its "most successful business". If anything is going to get us out of this, it's Cava. Even though Aniar is the internationally-renowned, Michelin star restaurant, Cava takes in multiple times what Aniar would take in and it's the only one that we would be able to reopen [at 2m social distancing]."


Meanwhile, Des O'Dowd, the owner of the Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa resort in west Cork is not sure consumer demand will return in 2021, and worries about tourism from the UK.

“I’d be cautious about next year. I would be concerned that Brexit has gone to the back-boiler; talks haven’t gone well. We could be opening up next year if we have a vaccine and people are willing to travel, but we would still be after losing our biggest market – the UK. I would love to see us back where we were starting 2020 with, but I’d be cautious about it.”

Mr McMahon also said the banks should to do more to help businesses through the impact of Covid-19. “Banks could be a bit more humane in relation to helping businesses. We’re still paying interest on our loan, which we got a moratorium on but banks could have forsaken that interest for the sake of three months because it would have created a more communal experience – that everybody is going through this.”

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times