The historic old brewery site in the middle of Clonakilty could be redeveloped into an artisan food and drink centre — but only if flood relief works are carried out to protect it.
The protected structure in the town centre is owned by the O’Regan family, who also operate the Shannonvale Foods company, and Kieran O’Regan said ideas have been proposed for its redevelopment, but were dependent on the Office of Public Works (OPW) ensuring it was safe from the threat of flooding.
Mr O’Regan said one idea was to open a micro-brewery in the famous old structure, and for it to also house artisan food producers or indoor markets. “There is an aspiration for something like that,” he said. “It is a lovely building and it is a lovely site. We are looking for uses for it.”
But he said: “We cannot progress it until something happens with flood protection and the river bank. They are all interlinked.”
Clonakilty celebrated its 400th anniversary last year and the West Cork town is set to welcome back the production of the world famous Clonakilty Pudding brand, thanks to the purchase and redevelopment of the old Hills Mills site on the western side of the town earlier this year. Just this week Clonakilty-based outsourcing company South Western (SWS) announced the creation of 260 new jobs with the opening of its new office in Little Island near Cork city.
However, the town has also experienced coastal and river flooding in recent years, and Mr O’Regan said the location of the old brewery meant it was prone to possible flooding. “It is probably worse now than ever before,” he said of the flood threat. “It affects lots of people in the town.”
He also queried whether the scrapping of town councils — which in Clonakilty had played a prominent role in lobbying for the town — would also make it harder to secure the flood relief work demanded by townspeople and retailers.
The old brewery building has been in the ownership of the O’Regan family for more than half a century and adjoining lands have been in the family for even longer. More recently, the roof and chimney was restored and Mr O’Regan said the building had “huge potential”.
One possibility that has already been discussed is the potential for a micro-brewery on the site. A number of artisan beer operations have sprung up around the country and in Co Cork, including Blacks in Kinsale and Eight Degrees in Ballyhoura. Famously, Michael Collins’s favourite drink was locally brewed Wrassler stout.
Mr O’Regan said other people had also made inquiries about possible uses for the site, which he said had “great potential”.
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