PATRICK Punch’s hotel in the city has been saved from closure by a Carlow hotel owner and corporate financier who has taken out a three-year lease on the premises.
The 72-bed hotel at Punch’s Cross was due to close two weeks ago with the loss of 44 full and part-time jobs unless a new owner could be found.
Formerly part of the Dunne Group of hotels, Punch’s had been operated by Price Waterhouse Coopers for the last two years for Bank of Scotland.
The bank took the decision to close down the property on February 14, but hotel operator Paul Browne secured a deal at the last minute.
The Limerick Leader understands the new operator has ambitious plans to revitalise the hotel and help it re-connect with the local community.
Mr Browne, who had been in ongoing negotiations with Bank of Scotland and the hotel’s owners, secured an agreement to lease and operate the hotel.
He is the owner and operator of Killerig Hotel and Golf Resort, Carlow and has acted extensively in the hotel sector, carrying out restructuring and recovery work over the last number of years.
“We are highly excited to be taking over the lease on Punch’s Hotel,” he said.
“It is a wonderful city centre property and oozes potential and there is a great dedicated team running the hotel who are very excited about building back up the hotel’s business and putting it back on the map of one of Limericks finest bars and food venues,” said Mr Browne.
Eric Counihan, the hotel’s general manager, said the news was greeted “with joy and relief by our customers and staff alike.”
“We can now get on with providing great service, great food and great drink to our customers. Its feels wonderful to be actively taking bookings again,” he said.
Mr Counihan had expressed confidence from the outset that the hotel would remain open.
He said room reservations in the past year had been up 15-20 per cent on the previous year.
“Our bedroom business is fantastic. The bar business has more than held its own, and the food business is on a par as well,” he said.
The hotel which was built five years ago is reported to be “trading strongly”.
The hotel was put into liquidation in 2008 after a short period of examinership.
The Two Mile Inn hotel on the Ennis Road, which was also owned by the Dunne Group, closed last year but was purchased four months later for a speculated €1.2 million.
A site opposite Punch’s hotel is currently awaiting development by Limerick developer Robert Butler.