Downturn forces popular West Limerick venue to close its doors

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

EMIGRATION, the loss of a major festival and a tough economic climate have been blamed for the decision to close one of the most popular hospitality venues in rural West Limerick.

EMIGRATION, the loss of a major festival and a tough economic climate have been blamed for the decision to close one of the most popular hospitality venues in rural West Limerick.

The Gables bar and restaurant in Athea has been forced to shut its doors due to a lack of business, a move which has come as a blow to the economy of the border village.

However The Gables’ owner, Connie Herbert, has insisted that he hopes to re-open the premises as early as next summer.

Since it was bought by Mr Herbert in 1997, The Gables has expanded into a popular location for functions and live music, and developed a popular lunch and dinner trade. At its peak, a total of 25 people worked there in a full or part-time capacity.

However the bar and restaurant was forced to close its doors late last month due to a lack of business. A fast food outlet, which forms part of the complex, has remained open.

Mr Herbert said that while business has been tough for rural pubs across the country, the loss of the Athea motorcycle road races – which typically attracted 10,000 visitors to the village – was a serious blow.

“This is happening in most of the country, The Gables is no different. There’s been a huge decrease in population locally, and when you lose an event like the road races, it has a big impact. The Quinn Group gave the races sponsorship over the years, but when they got into difficulty, that was the end of that.

“This is not an indefinite closure. Trading has been difficult, and it would only have gotten worse over Christmas. I firmly hope to bring it back for the summer season. The Gables is just a temporary closure.”

The road races were cancelled this year for the second time in three years due to ongoing problems with fund raising and sponsorship.

Mr Herbert was one of the driving forces in the races’ organising committee, but earlier this year he re-located to Cahir in Tipperary after purchasing the Kilcoran Lodge Hotel.

Over the past 15 years, The Gables has been extended to include guest rooms, a multi-purpose function area and fast food outlet. Mr Herbert said that prior to its closure, four staff were employed in The Gables.

Mr Herbert said that footfall into the pub had been steadily decreasing in recent months, and he did not envisage that this would improve over the winter.

However he insisted that The Gables will have a future as “more of a summer venue” over the next few years, until the economy begins to recover.

“My plan is to open it up again next summer. I just felt that, with the decrease in population and emigration taking a toll, it’s very difficult. I just didn’t get the footfall.

“But I very much intend to open it back up, maybe around May or June, and make it more of a summer venue”.

Mr Herbert said that he is in discussions with road race organisers to host a race in Cahir next year, and intends to start planning for a race in Athea in 2014.