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Who is the new owner of the Park Hotel in Kenmare, and what are the plans for it?

Dublin-born, US-based entrepreneur Bryan Meehan is set to take over the hotel from high-profile hoteliers Francis and John Brennan

When staff at the Park Hotel in Kenmare, gather this week to meet their new boss and learn what is in store for the hotel, after four decades of high-profile hoteliers Francis and John Brennan at the helm of the landmark Co Kerry property, there will be only one man, dressed down in chinos and low-profile sneakers, to greet at the door. Dublin-born, US-based entrepreneur Bryan Meehan is travelling solo, without an entourage, to introduce himself as the new owner, along with his wife Tara, of the hotel.

Francis Brennan has already left the building, having departed quietly, without fuss, headed for a planned trip to New York, and his younger sibling John plans to follow suit. This week, the brothers successfully concluded a deal to sell the hotel to Meehan, a serial entrepreneur based in California. His past business interests have included the ethical Blue Bottle Coffee chain which he acquired in 2012, expanded across the US and into Japan, Korea and China, and sold to Nestlé five years later; the Nude Skincare brand which he cofounded with Ali Hewson and was acquired by luxury conglomerate LVMH, and the visionary Fresh and Wild organic food shops, which he established in London and sold to Whole Foods Market.

Meehan learned that the Park, where he had been a regular guest, was for sale this summer, during a visit to his other Irish hospitality venture, Dromgarriff Rainforest in Co Cork, a 96-acre estate with five houses for rent, which he purchased last year. “JR Ryall, the pastry chef at Ballymaloe, who my daughter Eve worked with two summers ago, told me about it,” Meehan says.

The seed was planted, and John Brennan nurtured it to fruition in a deal that saw Meehan pay, “less than they wanted and more than I would have liked”, for the business, which had been guided at €17 million, with the option of also including sister hotel, The Lansdowne, for a further €3.5 million.


Meehan opted not to take on The Lansdowne. “Given that I don’t live in Kenmare, I felt like I could do one thing really well, which is the Park, but to try and do two might be a bit ambitious,” Meehan says. Negotiations on the sale of that property to another buyer are ongoing. “I didn’t want to become a hotelier, in the sense of, suddenly I’m buying six hotels in Ireland. It’s more like, do something and do it really well.”

One of the things that made the hotel purchase attractive to Meehan was the people who work there, some of them in place for several decades. “If all the people who work at the Park stay, I’d be the happiest man in the world,” he says. “I’m very attracted to Irish hospitality. One of the reasons I do a lot of work in Japan is the hospitality levels there are so high, and the only other place I see that is in Ireland.”

Meehan’s immediate plans for the 46-bedroom hotel, a long-standing Relais & Châteaux and Ireland’s Blue Book property, are to do, well, not much at all, other than putting Blue Bottle Coffee on the menu immediately. “I will spend the next six months to a year just sort of getting to know the hotel and the guests and listen to the team and what they want to do,” he says. There will be one change that will come into place sooner rather than later however.

“I feel like when you walk into the Park, those guys looking at you on the wall feels a bit male heavy. And so it makes me a little uncomfortable,” Meehan says, referring to the artworks displayed in the hotel lobby. His lifelong interest in art means he has a significant collection to dip into, and some of it will be winging its way to Kenmare. “Because I see the Park as a home, I am going to be taking over a lot of the paintings that I have in my house in California,” Meehan says. Visitors to the hotel can expect to see Seán Scully and Dorothy Cross gracing the walls in future, as well as other international artists.

Meehan’s British-Swiss wife Tara, whom he met when they both worked for Guinness in Dublin, will be involved in any tweaks that are made to the appearance of the hotel. “One of the things that she has done over the years is that she’s very good on design, so she will help me thinking through any decisions that we do around design,” Meehan says.

The couple have three daughters, all born in London. “Olivia is 25, Eve is 22 and Orla is 19. Orla is at Barnard, in New York, Eve is at NYU, and Olivia has already graduated and she works for United Farm Workers in LA,” Meehan says. As well as working at Ballymaloe, Eve spent a summer at The River Cafe in London, and works two days a week at King restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village, while studying in New York. Although hospitality may be in the blood, “I never like to put any expectation on them,” Meehan says.

On his to-do list at the Park, Meehan is also aiming to address sustainability, which is at the heart of much of what he does in business and in his philanthropic endeavours. No longer involved in the day-to-day at Blue Bottle Coffee, where he remained in charge after the sale until handing over to his chosen successor Karl Strovink in 2020, he sits on Nestlé's Creating Shared Value Council, an external advisory group, and pursues interests in climate change and sustainability.

“Sustainability is in my heart. Every business I’ve touched has worked on something in that area. With the team’s permission, I want to be able to showcase the Park as one of the leading sustainability hotels in the world, not just in Ireland, but in the world,” Meehan says, adding that tackling the hotel’s €400,000 electricity bill will be a priority.

Originally from Dublin, where he studied at Trinity College before doing a Master of Business Administration at Harvard, Meehan says he spends “as much time as I can” in Ireland, using Dromgarriff Rainforest as his base. He does not rule out a permanent return to Ireland in the future. “Maybe. Yeah. I’d love to. I’ve got two daughters in college in the States, and one who lives in LA. So, I think it’s like any parent says, you wait and see.”