Business Leader: Popular pub in the heart of Limerick’s Georgian quarter

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Business Leader: Popular pub in the heart of Limerick’s Georgian quarter

Caherdavin man Ger Callanan is the owner of the Glen Tavern pub in Lower Glentworth Street, a hostelry which dates back centuries:

Tell us a little about the Glen Tavern

It’s a beautiful old Georgian building, a part of the historic Georgian centre of Limerick. While I own the place, I feel like I am the custodian of this place. People come in here and remember the previous owners, Dick Keane, Bill O’Donovan, Mick McCarthy, people going back 40 or 50 years.

We have been trying to do a bit of research into the origins of this pub. Originally, the building was two townhouses, combined to make one pub. This is why our walls are so thick. What people love about it as a pub is it has some lovely nooks and crannies. It looks small from the front, but it is quite big from the back.

How long have you been involved in the business?

I have been here for 20 years now. I bought the business with my father Eamon, my brother Jim and a third party. But my brother passed away, and the partnership broke up, so I bought all the interests out. But it has been the Glen Tavern for as long as we can remember. It’s an iconic name. 

What do you offer?

The days of every pub being the same is gone. You have to reflect your own personality on a place. I love the food offering, I like wine, and I love craft beer. I like to have things in for different people, whether its 18 to 30 crowds, or people who enjoy fine wine. You need a broad base.

While Limerick is a city, it’s a big village. We have everyone mixing here, whether they be a bricklayer, a barrister: all life is in Limerick. And that’s its strength. We are a proper Irish pub. We would have 20 people working for us on a full and part time basis.

What does your role entail?

Like any business owner, you multi-task. You’re the manager, you’re the general dogsbody, you are front-of-house, you also have to do accounting. Cathal Callanan, my cousin would be the bar manager. Josie Long would be our head chef and kitchen manager, and Helen Mullane would be our floor supervisor. One of my great strengths is that I have great staff. I’m very fortunate in that regard. I feel that’s reflected in the fact our same customers keep coming back.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dublin, but grew up in Templemore, Co Tipperary. Now I live in Caherdavin with my wife Aoife, whose family hail from the Ennis Road. We have three children, Clodagh, 22 Ciara and Sinead, both 20.

What is your educational background?

I attended Templemore CBS. From there I got an apprenticeship in the air corps in 1986, qualifying as an aircraft engineer through that.

How did you get to where you are today?

I spent 12 very happy years in the air corps. But it came to the point in time in life where you have to look at what you’re going to do. There were no promotional prospects there because of the pyramid system. Someone had to leave before you would move up, as it were.

The one good thing the Celtic Tiger did for young couples like ourselves was allow us to make life-changing choices, things you cannot do when times are tough. We are seeing it again now with young people. My wife was a librarian with Bord Iascaigh Mhara in Dublin. But we knew I would always get a job down here in Limerick in some form.

In fact, before I bought the bar, I had six months working in Vistakon in Plassey. A great company, and one my own brother Paul works for now. But there, I was still in a position where I wasn’t going to be my own boss.

So I had a meeting, and I decided to buy into this business. My family had always been in the hospitality trade. Since the age of ten, I would have helped out in our pub. The values my dad instilled in me, the need to look after people, these are the core of any industry.

What made you want to go into business alone?

It was a risk, but there is a level of opportunity there. Since I was one of a group buying into the pub, the risk was spread somewhat. But I knew I was the one who was going to be doing the heavy lifting. But I didn’t mind. This was about working to achieve something for me. I still love meeting people. It’s still a privilege for me to welcome customers. For people who walk in the door to come back to me is a privilege. These people have made a choice out of their own free will to spend their hard-earned money with you. I consider myself lucky every day.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

To consolidate what we have, and grow a small bit more. There is a new office development, Gardens International, being built opposite us which is going to have a major impact on the area. I think a lot of people will see opportunity here, and if I can get a few more customers from this, that’d be great.

The development will be great for inner Limerick city. It will create more ancillary, supply jobs, for example, as well as the office roles. I would like to think I’d be able to employ a couple more people off the back of it too. I love this place, I love this pub, and I love the customers and staff we have, so I feel very lucky.

In business and life, who do you admire?

There are a lot of people in this city who I would admire. People who have worked really hard to create a really good product. People like Robert Byrne, Donal Mulcahy, Dave Hickey, and some of the younger guys, those who run House and the Commercial. There are a lot of great people in the hospitality industry here.

Are you guided by any particular motto?

It’s not a motto, it’s more of an attitude. And that’s that ‘it’s all about the customer’ at the end of the day. It’s all about quality, choice and customer service.

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

I’m a news junkie! I love reading the Limerick Leader, the New York Times, the Irish Independent, the Guardian, the Irish Times, as well as watching BBC and RTE. I also love sport: anything from hurling to rugby to soccer.