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Is it too little too late for our beloved venues?

November 17th, 2021 7:10 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Chasers Niteclub at the Tanyard in Skibbereen is unsure of its future. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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WHILE the night-time economy received a much-needed boost in recent weeks that saw the doors of nightclubs finally re-open after being closed for almost two years, it might be just a little too late for the greater nightclub scene across West Cork, which currently has only two nightclubs open across a large hinterland.

Unfortunately, nightclubs were closing their doors long before the pandemic, as changing socialising habits, coupled with spiraling insurance costs, combined to signal the last days of disco for many who loved to boogie on a Friday or Saturday night.

The recently-announced ticketing system to gain entry to clubs, along with new Covid guidelines, might also prove difficult for some club owners, while the ‘spontaneity’ of going to clubs after pubs could be lost forever.

Don O’Sullivan, who owns The Hub nightclub in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon, opened over the recent bank holiday weekend for the first time since March of last year.

However, he decided not to open the following weekend because he hadn’t received the new guidelines that had been issued for the nightclub industry.

‘I haven’t received anything officially from the trade organisation, it wasn’t published in time for us to open again. When we actually get the proper guidelines, we will decide then,’ Don told The Southern Star.

Pre-Covid, Don said they were open every Saturday night and they were doing a steady trade with Christmas always being a busy period for them.

‘At the end of the day people still want to go out.’

Over in Skibbereen, Michael O’Driscoll of The Tanyard and Chasers nightclub said they have decided not to open for now, but are hoping to open at Christmas.

‘But that all depends on whether we are able to work with the regulations, including the purchasing of tickets online. Another thing is that people normally only decide to go to a nightclub at the last minute,’ said Michael.

‘Pre-Covid things had gone quiet in the club anyway, and we were only busy on the big nights. The insurance situation has also forced many fellow operators to close. Thankfully we’ve had very few claims here as we run a tight ship, but our insurance premium is still very high,’ he added.

Michael noted that many of his bar and door staff have now moved onto other things and won’t be coming back. He has also found that many of the bands he used to hire have stopped playing since Covid curtailed gigs and concerts.

Despite it being a popular tourist destination, Clonakilty is without a nightclub since the Venue at O’Donovan’s Hotel held its last night, during Christmas 2019. Dena O’Donovan said at the time that they were closing due to the high insurance costs after running the club for 40 years. She also said that it seemed nightclubs were going out of fashion and added that things had become messier in recent years.

This was preceeded by the closure of The Clubhouse in the nearby Emmet Hotel earlier that summer and Macroom’s only nightclub, O’Riada’s, which had been running for 30 years.

Mary Rose Shanahan, manager of O’Riada’s, told The Southern Star at the time that the costs of obtaining bar extensions was one of the reasons for the closure, and also the fact that insurance companies see nightclubs as potential claims.

Less competition in the insurance market covering nightclubs also made it unviable to keep the doors open. Mary Rose also said that the changing habits of how young punters socialise and drink at home before heading into town was also a factor to consider. Kinsale is another town that previously had two nightclubs to cater for both locals and tourists, but now it has none. In Castletownbere, the owners of the Skipper’s Bar and Beacon nightclub have no plans to open at the moment, but would hope to open for the busy period of Christmas.

Fond memories of West Cork’s best nightclubs

PAMELA Daly, who posted her memories on the Southern Star Facebook page, has fond memories of Wilbury’s in Bandon. She said they had the choice of modern music in one room and 80s classics in the other. Not only that, she also met her furture husband there. Pamela, from Enniskeane and Gerard Sheehy from Kilbrittain, met in 2007, and are both living in Ballineen now. They were due to get married in 2020 and again last year, but hopefully they will tie the knot in 2022.

She wasn’t the only one to meet her future spouse in that nightclub, as Sandra Florish Enright fondly remembers the days of going to Cleos. She said she met her husband there 35 years ago, after coming down on the bus from Cork city on a Sunday night to go to Cleos.

Cleos was also a favourite haunt of Ann McCarthy who recalled the free admission for ladies before 11pm on a Thursday night and said ‘great memories’ were had, while Niamh O’Brien loved seeing all the live bands, such as Bagatelle and Joanna & Tequila Sunrise at Cleos. Declan Crowley loved going to the Oak Room on a Thursday night in the Munster Arms Hotel, and catching the live bands on a Sunday night there.

Meanwhile, Nicola McCarthy said she used to love catching the bus down to the Beacon nightclub in Baltimore and also going  to Amadeus in Bantry. ‘Some epic good times had all ‘round.’

Further west, Carmel O’Donoghue recalled going to The Wheel Inn in Castletownbere as did Dorian van Raat and Maureen O’Sullivan who said it was ‘the place to be on a Saturday night in the early 80s and late 70s.’

Caroline Johnson has fond memories of going to Gatsbys and ‘thumbing to and fro.’

Mary O’Mahony said she used to go to The Wheel Inn in Castletownbere on a Saturday night and the Westlodge in Bantry on a Sunday night, while Amadeus and Gatsby’s was a favourite haunt for Anita O’Leary.

Margaret Clifford used to love going to Whispers and Amadeus, while Anna Gram recalled Amadeus in the Bantry Bay Hotel and said she always remembers being so impressed by the lit dance floor and the mirror behind the bar!

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