AFTER being closed for four months, Connolly’s of Leap has been reissued with a theatre licence and is once again open for business.
Owner Sam McNicholl explained that the popular music venue initially closed in November 2006, but was given a new lease of life in October 2015, when it was granted a dance licence.
The issuing of a dance licence in the District Court meant that Sam could apply to Revenue for a theatre licence, which meant that as a publican, he was entitled to serve alcohol during events.
‘We did that, and only opened two or three times a week when we had events and everything seemed to be working fine,’ said Sam.
In fact, within two years of re-opening, Connolly’s won an IMRO Music Venue of the Year for Munster, and the future looked positive.
However, in January, Sam said he was notified – without any material change in their circumstances – that Revenue would not be granting the theatre licence this year and that he would no longer be able to serve alcohol.
Then Sam and his legal team challenged the decision and were notified on Monday, April 15th that they were successful in having the theatre licence reissued.
‘Being closed for four months was difficult especially as there was a perception that we were somehow negligent,’ said Sam. ‘But there was no negligence on our part: we are fully tax compliant and we were not operating outside of the law in any way, shape, or form.
‘It was just one of those awful legalistic situations that thankfully has now been resolved by our solicitor, Colette McCarthy, and our barrister.’
Sam confessed: ‘The thought of not re-opening was too terrible to contemplate. I have invested all of my time and money into Connolly’s as a venue and it would have been bad for artists and performers – and the music scene in general – if it were to close.’
‘Last August,’ Sam said, ‘we began renovating the premises after being inspired by an online design competition, so to get that letter from Revenue in January was like our worst nightmare.
‘It has taken some time to resolve but, we held our course and continued with the renovations, which will be finalised by June. This summer, we are planning to incorporate a food element into the business, as well as more daytime trade.
‘Overall,’ Sam said, ‘this has had a negative effect on the local economy and it has affected me because I am self-employed, my four staff, and the sound engineers, but I am relieved and grateful that the situation has been satisfactorily resolved and that Connolly’s will once again be a vibrant part of the West Cork music scene.’