Pubs have been hit hard during the downturn with many drinkers opting to stay at home.
However, more pubs than ever are reaching out to customers offering drink deals and themed nights to attract their custom.
Many pubs are also availing of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their events.
Over the last few months the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) has travelled around the country advising publicans on how they can survive. They found that publicans are driving their customers home while others are running cinema and book club nights. Many pubs too offer free food and a table quiz night.
These moves are in reaction to bar sales falling by 10.5% last year and 7.4% in the first quarter of 2011.
Sales at the country’s off-licences, however, accelerated in 2010 compared with 2009, meaning people are not buying as much alcohol in pubs.
The owner of Sober Lane in Cork, Ernest Cantillon, said he sits down with staff every week to talk about new ideas and evaluate how things are working out.
“The ideas come from the staff and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t,” he said.
Mr Cantillon has been the owner of Sober Lane for five years and he said he has always done things differently. He recently bought another bar in Cork city, Electric, which he said is “flying”.
“You have to offer people value. Some of the things we do are fairly silly, but people love them,” he said.
Carol Anthony, who runs the Facebook page for Murphys Rock said they tried to build a niche for it as a party location. “We know people don’t have the money these days to be organising big parties so we provide everything free of charge,” she said.
CHARLIE MALONE’S, WOLFE TONE ST, LIMERICK
LIMERICK city publican Paddy Kelly is fighting the recession by building on his food trade. With one big difference. This is claimed to be the only pub in the land where customers get food served free of charge with their drink.
For years customers at his ‘Monday Club’ tucked into spare ribs.
He developed the menu and now free meals consist of bacon and cabbage, pork, beef and a wide variety of dishes, including curry. Recently he completed an outdoor barbecue where most days burgers, sausages and puddings sizzle to the delight of customers.
And the drink is as cheap as you will get in the city centre, with a pint of Guinness at €4.
“I like cooking and I find it very enjoyable. Giving out food without charge to my customers is just a way of saying thanks for their support and custom. I don’t charge and this is appreciated,” said Paddy, who usually starts serving food at around 5.30pm.
News of the pub with free food has gone around the world and TV crews from New Zealand, Britain and the US have called to witness the free feast.
THE HI-WAY, DOORADOYLE AND RUSSELLS, RAHEEN
Tommy O’Sullivan, who is the director of two large suburban pubs in Limerick, has taken a leaf out of Michael O’Leary’s Ryanair business manual.
Tommy, who runs the Hi-Way in Dooradoyle and Russells in Raheen, said: “It all about getting the people in. That’s the main thing. Like Ryanair fill the seats. And we are doing that by giving exceptional value.
“You can have two main courses in our restaurants for €15 and there are up to 20 main courses to chose from, including all the popular dishes such as roast beef.”
In the bar Tommy has come up with another winner in a ‘Beat the Barman’ promotion.
At the kick-off at all soccer games in England, Scotland and Europe, pints drop in price to €3. The price remains at €3 until such time as there is a score.
Tommy said they are now embarking on another drinks initiative at the Hi-Way and Russells. All shorts and mixers will be sold for €5.
UNICORN, DOORADOYLE, LIMERICK
Value is part of the strategy adopted by Bryan Greene, manager of the Unicorn.
The carvery lunch with a choice of main courses and desserts sells for €14.50 for main course, dessert and tea or coffee. With a carvery meal, a customer can buy a soft drink for €1.
And if you are a golfer you get a 15% discount if you show your Golfing Union of Ireland membership card.
A pitcher (three pints) of lager can be bought for €9.
Another big hit is the ice bucket of Budweiser — six bottles of Bud in a large ice bucket for €18.
SHANNON KNIGHTS, SHANNON
THE Shannon Knights, in the centre of Shannon town is “going bonkers” following a refurbishment with two news bars, a bistro and a nightclub.
On Thursday, they hold a “Bonkers Night”, primarily for college students, but anyone over 18 is welcome.
Patrons can get four drinks of their choice and entry to the nightclub for €20.
The pub is also a very popular venue for live sporting fixtures and the Knights provide free finger food at half-time.
A new offer is a 10 inch pizza and a pint or glass of wine for €12 in the bar up to 9.00pm. In the Bistro, management are offering dinner for two with a free bottle of wine for €55.
KNOX’S, ABBEY ST, ENNIS
The pub uses Facebook extensively to ensure clients are up to date with special offers and events. Management has also introduced a loyalty cards scheme for all regular customers who receive special offers and food and drink and receive notification of new offers by text.
Some of the deals include three pitchers of beer for €10 and five bottles of premium lager for €15. The pub also has deals promoted by various suppliers. Management describe the bar food as “reasonably priced” with main courses ranging in price from €8 to €16.
FÁILTE Ireland is turning to the drink in a bid to boost business in Kerry pubs.
The national tourism promotion body has pledged its full support to a new campaign aimed at luring visitors into old-style hostelries for a traditional night of ceol agus craic.
The initiative, officially launched by Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan today, will be piloted in busy Killarney where a host of willing musicians have been lined up to entertain tourists with toe-tapping two-hour ballad sessions.
Fáilte Ireland hopes the recession-priced campaign will promote the tourism potential of traditional Irish music as well as resulting in a welcome boost for under pressure publicans.
The guests will also be educated on the history and heritage of Irish music as well as being encouraged to try out a range of instruments on the night.
The pub crawl event will take in a number of hostelries – including O’Connor’s Pub and Courtney’s Bar – and if the Kerry pilot scheme is successful, it could be rolled out to the rest of the country before the current holiday season ends.
Leading the Kerry campaign are trad music buffs Nikki Roberts and fiddle player Brendan O’Sullivan who has travelled the world promoting Irish music.
McSORLEY’S, COLLEGE STREET, KILLARNEY
Offering three shots for €12 or two shorts and mixers for €10. It comes as no surprise that the price slash is proving to be a big hit, particularly with lively revellers who make off to the late-night venue after closing time in the downtown pubs.
MUSTANG SALLY’S, COLLEGE STREET, KILLARNEY
Offering all drinks for €3.50 in a promotion running from Monday to Thursday. The recently reopened nightclub in the Danny Mann bar has been offering a Jack & Coke for just €5 with free admission for women before 12.30am.
JADES BAR, NEW STREET, KILLARNEY
Jades has tapped into the lucrative televised sports market by cutting the price of the pint to just €3 on some nights of big games.
It has proved to be very popular with soccer and rugby fans and the tills are ringing merrily and constantly when the price-buster offers are on the counter.
THE LANE BAR AT THE ROSS HOTEL, KILLARNEY
Has latched onto a real winner by turning to social media to promote regular big value offers.
The trendy downtown pub is running a Facebook Friday promotion, offering customers a cool summertime cocktail for just €6 if they beat the buzzer with a special catchphrase highlighted on the bar’s Facebook page.
MUNSTER BAR, TRALEE
A pint of Beamish is also available in Tralee for between €3.10 and €3.20 and it is gaining in popularity, according to experienced publican John O’Sullivan of the Munster Bar.
“It’s all about getting back to basics and, with the way things are, we have to cut our cloth to suit our measure,” he said.
“The new beers are great value and they are certainly gaining in popularity. We have to price it right and we have to pitch it right as well as placing the customer first.”
Mr O’Sullivan also pointed to the incredible value available in the town for those seeking good food at competitive prices.
THE CARLTON HOTEL, TRALEE
Offering an early bird menu consisting of three courses and a glass of wine or beer for just €13.95.
JACK MEADE’S, CHEEKPOINT, OUTSIDE WATERFORD CITY
Over the last few years Jack Meade’s — not far from Waterford city but in a countryside setting — has emphasised weekend activities and family attractions in a bid to keep customers rolling into the premises.
“The south-east is a family- friendly region and this is part of that,” Carmel Hartley of Jack Meade’s said. “We have a children’s playground, ponies, goats, walks. It’s set up for families, people can eat out of doors, enjoy al-fresco dining, while the children play.”
Drinks are at “a very reasonable rate,” according to Carmel, so cutting prices isn’t on the agenda for alcohol at any rate.
“We do large minerals for children at €2.40.”
Other attractions include traditional music every Saturday night and regular barbecues during the summer.
PADDY BROWNE’S PUB, WATERFORD CITY
One of the landmark bars on the western side of Waterford city, Paddy Browne’s has been doing its best to keep punters turning up. Manager Susie Grace says most of their drinks are €3.50 for a pint or long- neck bottle — cut from the normal rate of €4.10 or €4.20.
Other measures include a carvery special for students offering a main course for €6.95 rather than the usual price of €9.95.
DAVITT’S ON THE QUAY, DUNGARVAN
Drink promotions and food specials are regulars at Davitt’s.
A recent development at Davitt’s is monthly “Take Me Out” events, based on the TV3 show, which has proved a Friday night magnet.
When it comes to prices, the pub has regular specials such as four bottles of beer for €16, two vodka/red bull drinks for €10, or a pizza slice and beer for €5.
THE TAP ROOM, BALLYBRICKEN, WATERFORD
“We introduced a pensioner’s rate, where you can get a pint of Guinness for €3.30 or a pint of mid-strength Guinness for €3.10, which is getting popular.
“We have complimentary food on Monday evening, ” said proprietor Tony Walsh.
ALFIE HALE’S, WATERFORD CITY (THREE PUBS)
“It’s very tough at the moment. There’s a price war going on in Waterford and costs have been cut across the board. Sport is important to us; we really push the sports nights and if there’s Singing Pubs or Stars of our Bars.” — general manager Dean Hale.
SARATOGA, TRAMORE BEACHFRONT
“We do loads of specials in the daytime; everything is under €10. We do a nice trade but everything depends on the weather because we’re on the beach.” — manager Bill Doherty.
SOBER LANE, SULLIVAN’S QUAY, CORK CITY
ROCK, paper, scissors is just one of the games that bar staff at Sober Lane have with customers where the prize is a free drink. The staff also do a “flip the coin” evening on Sundays where the customer gets their next round free if they win.
On Monday they have “beer pong”, which is a popular American drinking game, while on Tuesday nights they run a free table quiz.
The most popular draw to the bar is a deal where customers can get a large pizza and a bottle of wine or a pitcher of beer for €20.
The pub also offers some other quirky items on its food menu such as parsnip chips with curry salt for €2 or rustic potato wedges with horseradish mayonnaise and salsa for €3. The pub attracts students and after-work drinkers every night of the week. For the month of July it is running a Mexican month.
THE SEXTANT, ALBERT QUAY, CORK CITY
The big draw at The Sextant is pig on a spit night on the first Friday of every month. They slow-roast the pig for eight hours and serve it with sausage stuffing and apple sauce at 6pm in their free garden. All free.
The pub also offers alternative lunches and late brunch on a Sunday. Mid-week drinkers can get a stew and a pint for €5 while the pub also reserves seats for big groups if they ring ahead.
The pub also offers various food options for people looking to hold a party there. One of these options is the pig on a spit for 100 people for around €700.
The Sextant, which has been a bar since the late 1800s, was refurbished around two years ago.
AN BRÓG, OLIVER PLUNKETT ST, CORK
This is the pub that started it all in Cork. Since September 2008, the Cork city bar began selling all pints at €2.90 from opening time to 9pm, seven days a week.
The bar has now increased this price to €3 but has extended the timeline to 11pm. It also offers deals on vodka where a customer can buy a double shot for €2 extra.
An Bróg has really embraced social media, using Facebook to attract customers. The bar is also open late seven nights a week.
CRONIN’S PUB, CROSSHAVEN, CORK
Soul and Seafood festival, wine tasting evening, film and food evening, extensive rum menu.
MURPHYS ROCK, BALLYVOLANE, CORK CITY
This local pub has built a niche for itself as a party location. If someone books a party here the pub said all you need to do is show up. They will provide decorations, champagne, a DJ or band and food all free of charge. The pub also has a very active Facebook page to promote itself. It runs a darts night on Monday and also has a golf society. It also runs BBQs and children’s parties for locals during the year and offers free food on match nights.
ELECTRIC, SOUTH MALL, CORK CITY
Music festivals, drink and food deals, over-sized pint glasses.
CAVANAGHS, LIBERTY STREET, CORK CITY
Table quiz on Tuesday nights, trad sessions, sandwiches, chess boards.
BIERHAUS, POPE’S QUAY, CORK CITY
Festivals like Summerfest which was on this June bank holiday weekend and offered 14 beers on draft, live music and festival food.
BISHOPSTOWN BAR, CURRAHEEN ROAD, CORK CITY
Bingo, meal deals, table quiz and live music.