Portfolio of pubs reflects McCabe’s eye for detail

 Benny McCabe, proprietor, sitting in the Crane Lane, Cork

An article published in this newspaper in 2007 outlined how Benny McCabe was “no fastidious accountant, with his eye fixed firmly on the bottom line. For McCabe, pubs are a way of life.”

After building up a portfolio of the city’s most popular establishments, though, it is hardly surprising that arguably Cork’s most successful publican is so vociferously fighting to stop IBRC from selling his companies’ loans to Nama.

As was outlined on his behalf in court yesterday, his is the largest pub group outside Dublin employing over 255 people with a turnover of €12m annually.

He knows exactly what the public want from their city centre pub. With every acquisition, he has put his own stamp on each property, using his fastidious eye for detail to ensure they will prove a sure-fire hit.

Mr McCabe, who is in his early 40s, comes from a publican family — his parents ran Sin É on Cork’s Coburg St before him.

His first venture though was Snotty Joes on Tuckey St, a premises he leased at 19 years of age. It was across from the Oval, a pub which he later bought in 2005 for €1.2m.

It was between 2005 and 2008 that his empire really took off. By that stage he already had the Mutton Lane Inn as well as the Sin É bar which he had taken on from his parents.

After the purchase of the Oval, he laid out his plan to keep it “a lovely old-fashioned pub”. At the time his theory was that small pubs were making a big comeback and that the younger generation had often never been in a proper pub.

Therefore his next acquisition followed the same theme.

He bought the Club One premises on Phoenix St for €4.3m in 2006 and over the of eight months reportedly spent €1.5m on an internal overhaul turning it into the Crane Lane.

At the time he said: “There’s a huge silent majority of drinkers in Cork who favour a seat and a pint in comfortable surroundings, as oppose to a crowded nightclub experience.

“This new bar has a late 1950s whiskey-bar type feel to it, like something you would see in New York.”

By 2008, he had snapped up The Bodega on Cornmarket St, considered to be one of the city’s most popular bars at the time, for approximately €8m. That was €1m more than it was sold to developer Owen O’Callaghan for a year earlier.

Again millions of euro and many months of work were expended before the finished product opened to the public in May 2009.

He has also added the Vicarstown Inn and the Arthur Mayne’s to his portfolio, the latter a city wine and food bar in one of Cork’s oldest retail buildings.

As recently as earlier this year, Mr McCabe was still active in the property market. In March, it emerged the McCabe family were to add to their pub empire with a new venture opposite their Bodega bar, in the Cornmarket Centre building, underneath TK Maxx.


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