A man worth his malt: Benny McCabe plans gin and vodka distilleries for Cork

Not content with running 12 pubs and a brewery, publican Benny McCabe has revealed plans to develop two micro-distilleries in the heart of Cork City.

Mr McCabe, who owns some of the city’s best-known heritage pubs — his is the largest pub group outside Dublin, employing more than 200 people — confirmed last night that he intends to lodge two separate planning applications within the next three weeks for micro-distilleries to brew gin and vodka.

He hopes to develop one of the facilities within his Bodega pub on Cornmarket St, just across the road from where he and his family opened the Rising Sons brewery last summer, and where he brews a range of craft beers.

The second micro-distillery has been earmarked for a site opposite his hugely popular Crane Lane late night bar and music venue.

Mr McCabe said his micro-distillery plans are, in part, a response to the imminent opening of the first outlet of the UK discount pub chain, Wetherspoons, in the city.

“The Lidl effect is coming to the trade and the pub business has to change,” he explained.

“I’m not owed a living by anyone so I have to adapt and change. But I’m only one step ahead of the curve. This (micro-breweries and distilleries) is the type of industry we need to bring back in to the city centre — brewing, manufacturing, furniture- making — those kinds of things. It will give people another reason to go in to the city centre, and gives the city centre another unique selling point.”

Earlier this week, Mr McCabe said that online retailing was one of the biggest challenges facing the city centre.

In a letter to this newspaper, he said: “It’s not Nama; it’s not parking; it’s not red tape; it’s not health and safety; it’s not the banks — it’s the spectre of online shopping.”

Against the backdrop of a debate about the impact of Wetherspoons on local businesses, Mr McCabe said the arrival of discount pubs is not to be feared because cheap food and drink are already available here. “What is to be feared and indeed to be confronted are the conditions that prevent equipping home-grown businesses from innovating and competing,” he said.

“We need to become an entertainment hub; we need more hotels; we need to move light manufacturing, food processing, brewing and distilling back into the city centre. We need more empty buildings converted back to residential. There should be whole streets devoted to clothing design, furniture- makers.”

He added that the “current risk-averse nature” of the banks is making it difficult for start-ups.

READ MORE: Do not fear British pub chains, online shopping is a greater threat


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