Rural pubs can be saved by making them community hubs
Seventh-generation publican Joe Sheridan believes multi-function local bars can thrive
Joe Sheridan, owner of Walsh’s Bar in Dunmore, Co Galway: “The pub and its ancillary services will be running in parallel with each other.” Photograph: AFP
In the north Galway town of Dunmore, there were 18 pubs 20 years ago. Now there are just six.
Locals have already turned one of nine vacant properties in the town into a digital hub, a pop-up shop and a place where people can learn about green energy technologies.
Under the Our Rural Future plan, the Government says it will support the conversion of more such rural pubs and Joe Sheridan, who owns Walsh’s Bar in the town, is excited about the prospect.
“We are hoping to provide a remote work hub running in parallel with the pub business,” he said. “The scope of its operations will be widened. The consumption of alcohol will not be its primary role anymore.”
Sheridan, who is a seventh-generation publican, a Fianna Fáil councillor and the chairman of the Galway Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, says: “The pub and its ancillary services will be running in parallel with each other. There is an element that not every shoe fits every style of business. The communities in which we live need these services.
“The State cannot provide them so why not partner up and shore up the businesses that are there so that we don’t have further depopulation of centres?”
Businesses which can’t afford to operate full-time because the work is not there could rent out a space for a day or two a week, a barber for instance, in part of his pub premises, he believes.
The Government could help by grant-aiding local businesses to partner up with pubs.
“We need support and not sympathy. Building costs are at €200 a square foot and the public houses can provide community, social enterprise workspaces for €50 a foot.”