FACTORS such as rising prices, the smoking ban and a severe recession have seen pubs endure several years of decline, but Ennis publicans are now preparing for what is likely to be one of their busiest ever weeks.
Gerry Kelly is involved with The Diamond on O’Connell Street, Considine’s on Parnell Street and Dan O’Connell’s in the Square.
Reflecting on the last time the Fleadh was in Ennis, back in 1977, he said, “I remember, I was working in The Cloister. Culture has changed an awful lot since. At that time, all the windows on the shops in town were barred up. But you don’t get a rough crowd following the Fleadh.”
There are fewer premises now to take the drinkers, he added. “I would say there is about 14 pubs less than the last time it was here. It can be frightening when you think about it. If you remember the crowd that was in O’Connell Street after we won the All-Ireland final in 1995, I think it will be something similar to that. There are fewer pubs now and, if you take The Diamond alone, if you put 60 or 70 people into it, it’s packed.”
He said he is somewhat unsure of how busy the 2016 event will be and that fine weather would help the public’s enjoyment of the event. “We expect to be very busy, hopefully anyway. The weather will make a big difference. If it’s good, everybody will be able to stay outside and enjoy the music on the streets.”
He said there had been consultation with Sligo publicans, as the town hosted the Fleadh for the last two years, but he himself expects Ennis will be even busier. “We have spoken to the Sligo people but I think it will be actually bigger here. It hasn’t been down to this side of the country for a long time. It’s near Shannon Airport and there will be a lot more tourists around. I think the most important thing is that people go away happy from it, that they get a good impression of the town. It’s looking very well at the moment and it’s very important that people speak well about the place.”
Mr Kelly said that, from Thursday on, the pubs will be using plastic glasses and that closing time will be 1.30am for the early days of the Fleadh and 2am later in the week.
He said many pubs have drafted in casual staff for the week and he noted a lot of optimism about the event. “There’s a buzz already around town, with shopkeepers getting ready and everyone seems to be excited about it.”
By Owen Ryan