Louis Fitzgerald will reopen its Gin Palace pub on Dublin’s Abbey Street seven nights a week with a new menu.
But the veteran pub and hotel owner is making the move despite his serious concerns about the problems facing businesses in the north inner city – an area he says is the post-lockdown boom pubs are seeing on the feel the other side of the river, not enjoy.
Fitzgerald, like everyone in the pub trade, has taken a hit during the pandemic. But now the biggest problem faced by most of the 19-plus pubs, hotels and restaurants in its group since nightlife returned is staff shortages.
“At the moment our pubs in Südstadt and especially in the outskirts are doing really well. Finding staff is very difficult. However, we have taken care of our employees during the pandemic and there is a loyalty that now suits us. We employ 1,250 people, but it’s a struggle every day to stay ahead of the competition to keep our people.”
But at Gin Palace — the Abbey Street venue best known for its mix of cocktails and trendy gins — the problem was the opposite.
“The Gin Palace is a nice pub but Abbey Street has declined in terms of activity and attendance. However, we hope that it will come back somewhat with new hotels in the area coming into operation.”
Fitzgerald had restricted hours, keeping it closed on Mondays and Tuesdays: “The shop just wasn’t there.
“But from next week we will be open seven days a week and a new menu will be introduced. We love the pub and think we can get it rolling again.”
But many business owners are feeling gloomier on the streets around O’Connell Street and face degradation due to neglect and anti-social behavior.
“It’s a crisis for the region, but not one that happened today or yesterday. I’ve seen it get progressively worse over the past seven years. Covid has accelerated that.
“Fifteen years ago there was a lot of optimism and high expectations for the area, but in reality it didn’t happen.”
Still, after 50 years in the business and many ups and downs, he has decided to take an upbeat approach at Gin Palace in hopes that long-promised support for the area, as well as nearby Clerys redevelopment, will begin tonight To lure back crowds stubbornly staying south of the river for now.
The Arlington Hotel, not far away on North Quays near O’Connell Bridge, is also owned by the Louis Fitzgerald group and, he says, has been doing well since theatrical performances returned.
But on the streets a block or two north, the buzz hasn’t returned.
Gin Palace’s reopening seven nights a week is more hope than expectation.
“The cadence just wasn’t what it used to be, but we’re hoping things are improving. You must be open to generate business. If you go down to five open days, you go backwards, so we have to go back to seven days.”
Fitzgerald says police activity in the area has increased, but he still believes the northern downtown area is dealing with a disproportionate share of the fallout from the city’s drug and homelessness crises.
“Many of the tourist hostels became homeless shelters during Covid and are still unavailable to tourists. Nordstadt needs a serious injection of support,” he says.
A radical change in the GAA season — with hurling and football championships now ending in early August instead of September — will also be a hit.
“September was a GAA month that businesses in the region were looking forward to. People could come to Croke Park and get hotel rooms at reasonable prices, but you can’t get a room in Dublin in July.”
Fitzgerald is a well-known supporter, but he says he can’t understand why the GAA gave up its hold on public consciousness in September.
“You’re trying to fix something I didn’t think was broken. They have consistently been two of the best weekends for hospitality in town. And the GAA is missing out as all focus will now be on the Premier League through September.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/we-love-the-gin-palace-and-really-think-we-can-get-it-back-rolling-again-41806529.html “We love the Gin Palace and really believe we can get it working again.”