ONE of Cork’s most successful publicans and restaurateurs says those in the trade will have todiversify or face the risk of closing down.
Derek Walshe, who owns the Elm Tree in Glounthaune, has seen his business prosper while more than 100 bars have closed in Cork in the past three years.
He warns more will go the same way if they don’t diversify into food and create a family atmosphere.
“Pubs can’t just stick to pints anymore. The standards in the trade need to be elevated,” he said.
The 38-year-old has invested serious money in his business at a time when others have sought to cut back.
In 2007, he bought out two partners and has since carried out two renovations costing around €3.7 million. The father-of-three took a chance as his premises is situated in a rural area.
There was a setback along the way when it was announced that Amgen wasn’t going to create more than 1,100 jobs just a stone’s throw away in nearby Carrigtwohill.
However, the extensive car park at the Elm Tree is full most days and it’s normal to see dozens of his patrons’ cars parked on the hard shoulder of the main road.
The business has grown so much that Derek and his wife now employ 70 people. Having spent 20 years in the bar trade he has witnessed a lot of changes and believes more are on the way.
“There is trouble in our industry. We are overpopulated with pubs. The average pub won’t survive unless it diversifies,” Mr Walshe says.
He believes, in a few years, villages which may have five or six pubs will see them whittled away to just one or two.
“Standards have to be very high and that’s what we aim for all the time.”
As part of the Elm Tree redevelopment the Walshes have opened up a corporate area with wi-fi.
“We are probably one of the busiest pubs in Cork. That’s because we serve a wide array of food in the restaurant and bar food and continental breakfasts,” he said.
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