Newport publican starts dancing lessons to 'keep doors open' at bar

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Newport publican starts dancing lessons to 'keep doors open' at bar

Theresa Ahern, proprietor of Ahern’s pub, Newport, is commencing social dancing classes on Monday to attract young people Picture: Michael Cowhey

ON a  Monday night in Ahern’s pub in Newport the landlady often closes early as she is the only person in the pub.

Theresa Ahern says over 20 of her longtime customers have died in the last three years.

As she surveys the empty bar stools, Theresa says “crowds are way down”.  It is the same for all rural pubs.

“When we started off everybody was in their 20s, 30s and 40s. They were all young and well able to dance. Now, they are all in their 80s and 90s and are dying away,” said Theresa.

To try and fill up the bar on Monday nights and attract custom she has come up with a new plan. 

“There are no young people coming in to the place. That is why I am starting dancing classes from 7.30pm to 9pm beginning on Monday, November 20. I’ll try anything to keep the doors open. All are welcome to learn waltzing, jiving, quicksteps – social dancing. We have a lovely dance floor. Everybody comments on the dance floor and cosy atmosphere,” said Theresa, who hopes the attendees will then come along to her dances every weekend.

Peter Burke, who always attracts a crowd, played this Saturday night.

Ahern’s has been in the family since 1937. It was bought by Martin, father of her late husband John. He tragically died in 2015 when the cab of a vintage lorry fell on him at his machinery workshop.

“He worked on the farm but he a was a great help. He would come out at 11pm every night and do the bar and help out at weekends.” 

When Theresa and John married on April 28, 1979, she entered the business. It was a small country pub compared to what it is today. A new lounge opened in 1980 and another expansion followed in 1999.

In those days she opened at 10.30am, now it is 4pm or 4.30pm.

“Years ago you would have people passing the whole time. You would have a crowd of over 20 most evenings and you’d be very busy on nights you had music. You’d want plenty of change it was so busy. 

“There is no need to open early now as no one would be calling. On a Monday night you might have one or two and then no one. I’d close up about quarter to 11 if there was nobody in. I’m here seven days a week, I do everything,  I’m a workaholic.” Theresa lays a lot of the blame at the drink driving laws.

“They have kind of ruined it. It has made a huge difference. They’re all afraid. They are only having one or two. Years ago they could drink seven or eight and they all got home safely. I never heard of anyone crashing from our pub anyhow. It is very unfair what they are doing with cutting out the drink completely. ”

The increase in the popularity of drinking at home is another reason for the demise of rural pubs. “It is very bad - you become an alcoholic by drinking at home. There are no measures - you can drink away. There is no one to stop you and no one knows what you are drinking.” Whereas if you have one too many in Ahern’s, Theresa will have a quiet word in your ear.

“I’d be saying you have enough. A fellow who won some money came in a few weeks ago at 7.30pm. He was very drunk. I said to him did you ever hear the expression ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’,” said Theresa, who has four grown-up children – Ashling, Michael, John Christopher and Deirdre.

Theresa, who is aged in her 60s, thinks when she gives it up the pub will close. 

“Pubs are a huge part of local life and especially for people living alone. They are inside all day and they want to come out and talk to someone. They get fed up and depressed at home. They see nobody only the postman and he’s just dropping off letters. Post offices, garda stations, everything is closing.”