It’s a rainy summer’s day in Dingle when I sit down with Michael Murphy in Kennedy’s Bar on Upper Main Street. The pub hasn’t opened yet, but Michael has already lit the fire and brewed up some tea. We sit on old-fashioned stools around a battered travelling trunk and get to chatting about business.
Michael’s grandparents used to run this bar. They opened it in the 1930s and stayed open for the next 40 years.
“Basically, they ran it until they died in the 1970s,” he says.
[pull_quote_center]My mum worked in North Kerry at that time and would come home at weekends to open the pub for regulars. She did that until they all died off and the pub finally shut its doors in the early 1990s.[/pull_quote_center]
Those doors remained shut until Michael revived the family business in 2014. “I’d been working as a town planner in the UK but then my father died,” he explains. “I found myself travelling to and from the UK to look after things. Eventually, I realised I needed to move home.”
His background as a town planner meant that Michael had experience in conserving old buildings. This was to come into play when he decided to reopen the pub.
“During the Celtic Tiger, lots of pubs were gutted and lost their character as a result,” he says. “I wanted to keep the traditional fittings and fixtures and for the pub to look the same as it had always done.”
Consequently, all he did before opening was to clean away the cobwebs and give the rooms a fresh lick of paint. However, he did make some changes to the drinks offering. As well as the standard Guinness on tap, he introduced a range of craft beers and ciders. The pub now has ten beers and ciders on tap and 30 others in bottles.
Michael’s interest in craft drinks is motivated by a desire to support local businesses.
[pull_quote_center]Local businesses supporting each other are what drive the local economy.[/pull_quote_center]
The quality of Irish craft beers and ciders is another factor. “We have our local West Kerry Beer on tap and it’s flying with our customers,” he says. “That’s a testament to the product itself. It wouldn’t sell so well if it didn’t taste good.”
Michael finds that customers are curious about these drinks. “The craft beer movement in the States is huge so we get a lot of Americans asking to try local beers and ciders,” he says. “But we also have the odd 60 year old who has been drinking Guinness all his life asking to try something new.”
Kennedy’s Bar is now a popular bar in Dingle, attracting customers ranging in age from their mid-20s to their 60s. The pub’s success isn’t down to advertising as Michael relies entirely on word of mouth. He also doesn’t organise any events to attract the crowds.
“It’s small in here so we can’t squeeze people in,” he says.
The one exception is inviting the people behind various craft beers and ciders to the pub so that his customers can meet the producers behind the brand.
We’ve invited Torc Brewing, Mountain Man Brewing and Blacks of Kinsale for this year’s Dingle Food Festival.
[/pull_quote_center]Looking to the future, Michael hopes to renovate an old shed behind the pub. “It’s got an old stone floor and lots of potential, provided that it’s treated sensitively,” he says.
Judging by what he’s done in Kennedy’s to date, if anyone has the sensitivity needed to bring about that restoration successfully, it’s Michael Murphy.
[quote_box_center]For more information on Kennedy’s Bar, visit their Facebook page.[/quote_box_center]