A new generation is injecting life into this Cork local

Family board game nights, mindfulness and yoga mornings, a doggie meet up, and a non-alcoholic beer festival — doesn’t sound like your average pub, does it? These are just some of the plans a new generation are injecting into a city watering hole, writes IRENE HALPIN LONG
A new generation is injecting life into this Cork local
Sisters (from left) Gemma Power, Ellen O'Donovan and Olivia Carroll and their father Jerry Carroll who run the St. Luke's Inn at St. Luke's Cross, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

THE Irish Pub industry has undergone significant changes. Traditionally a place for story-telling, singing songs and drinking pints, the pub has remained an integral part of Irish society.

It survived the Temperance movement and ideals of Abstinence in the mid 1800s. The barriers between the ‘ladies lounge’ and the bar propped up by a line of nodding men began to break down in the 1970s — a time when some pubs refused entry to women, and some women were only allowed entry if accompanied by a man while other publicans refused to serve women pints.

Recently, the introduction of the smoking ban, a tightening of drink-driving laws and a rise in people socialising more regularly in their homes have meant that publicans have had to adapt and change how they run their businesses.

Sisters (from left) Gemma Power, Ellen O'Donovan and Olivia Carroll and their father Jerry Carroll who run the St. Luke's Inn at St. Luke's Cross, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Sisters (from left) Gemma Power, Ellen O'Donovan and Olivia Carroll and their father Jerry Carroll who run the St. Luke's Inn at St. Luke's Cross, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Jerry Carroll has worked in the pub trade for over 50 years. He moved from Kerry to Cork in 1965 at 16 and started working in a pub. He managed his first bar in 1978 before buying The Grand Circle Bar on Emmet Place in 1980. He sold the pub in 1994 and bought Norwood Court in Rochestown later that year, changing the name to Havisham House Hotel.

In 2000, Jerry bought a pub in St Luke’s and named it Carroll’s, now St Luke’s Inn.

Jerry has seen a lot of changes in the pub industry in Cork over the last five decades.

“The big change is that pubs that used to do day trade before, where people would have a drink on their lunch break, that’s gone now. It’s not done anymore. Younger people wouldn’t go into a pub from Monday to Friday to have a drink at lunchtime.

“When the drink-driving laws came in in the eighties, it had an effect on pubs. Not so much in the cities and towns, but in the countryside, because it was harder for people to travel to their local pub.”

Over the last two years, Jerry decided he wanted to take a step back from the business, without retiring completely, and hand over the reins to his three daughters, Olivia, Ellen and Gemma. He felt the bar trade was changing once again and that his daughters had the right skills and expertise to help move the family business forward.

Jerry said, “I was used to making my own decisions for many years, but it’s the realisation that you don’t know everything and that my three daughters have some great ideas. Getting onto social media has been a success story for us.

“Any organisation or any business has to have new blood flowing through it to keep a business going, to keep it viable and profitable. We are a small example of that.”

Olivia, Ellen and Gemma started working with their father two years ago. Olivia manages the pub. Ellen is responsible for the accounts and Gemma takes care of the pub’s marketing and social media and organises events.

Gemma describes her father, Jerry, as “a real gentleman who the customers love. We’re using his experience of 50 years in the trade and just tweaking it a bit.”

The blended skill sets of the older and younger generations is evident in St Luke’s Inn. It maintains the cosy, inviting charm of a local pub, where you can pop in to read the paper and have a pint while also extending a warm welcome to members of the community who may not have thought of using a pub for social gatherings and events.

Ellen explains: “We’re trying to make St Luke’s Inn an integral part of the community. If you are new to the area, pop in.”

The family is working hard to put the pub back into the centre of the St Luke’s community by running events that cater for a wide range of interests. Their book club runs every third Thursday of the month.

Gemma said: “We wanted to run events that respond to the needs in the community. The book club has proved very popular and a lot of people attend.

“It starts with people chatting about the book but after about 20 minutes, people start talking about anything and everything. It is a very social event.”

On the first Thursday of every month, the pub hosts Cork Little Business Meet Up.

Gemma explained: “It’s a meet up for people who run small businesses or who are interested in starting small businesses. It’s free to come and we provide the space for people to chat and exchange ideas.”

The insights of Jerry’s three daughters have moved the business forward.

Gemma said: “What people want and what people expect has changed. Non-alcoholic drinks have become very popular. Pubs are being used for alternative uses and events.”

Sisters (from left) Gemma Power, Ellen O'Donovan and Olivia Carroll and their father Jerry Carroll who run the St. Luke's Inn at St. Luke's Cross, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
Sisters (from left) Gemma Power, Ellen O'Donovan and Olivia Carroll and their father Jerry Carroll who run the St. Luke's Inn at St. Luke's Cross, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

St Luke’s Inn is catering to the changing needs of patrons. As well as alcoholic drinks and minerals, they offer six non-alcoholic drinks, one non-alcoholic cider, kefir (fermented milk drink), tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

In the coming weeks, they are hosting a wide range of events that cater for all age groups and members of the community, whether young or old.

This month, St Luke’s Inn are partnering with Good Day News Cork, a quarterly news magazine which publishes positive and uplifting true stories from around Cork, to run a Stay In and Play afternoon for all ages.

Ellen said: “There is no reason why we can’t work towards normalising a pub for families. That’s one of the reasons we are running the ‘Stay In and Play’ event so that families can come and play board games with their children, have one glass of wine or have a coffee.

“It’s difficult for people to meet up with friends when you all have small children. I think it is healthy to show children that you can go into a pub, have one glass, have a chat, play a game of cards and then go home. There is no need to get drunk and let things get out of hand.

“I think events like Stay in and Play can help change teenagers’ mentalities about drinking. Pubs are about socialising, enjoying your time and heading home happy.”

Last Saturday, November 16, the pub hosted a mindfulness and yoga morning before opening.

While a Kinnegar beer evening takes place on Friday, November 22, where people can play the game, Cards against Humanity and screenings of The Late Late Toy Show on Friday, November 28 are also on the cards.

The pub holds an annual Christmas jumper party each year and raises money for charity. This year, the chosen charity is St Luke’s Welcomes, a group in the St Luke’s area who welcome migrant and refugee families and help them integrate into the local community.

They are also running a doggie meet-up morning with Saint Vincent de Paws to help raise money for the charity, whose aim is to collect food donations for dogs and puppies in rescue centres in Cork.

In January, the pub will host a non-alcoholic beer and reggae night.

Jerry has embraced the changes that his daughters have made to the business and said there have been “no problems” working as a family.

Olivia said: “We’ve worked on and off with dad since we were teenagers so it’s natural for us to work together. We grew up helping him. There were always a few hours work for us when we were in secondary school and college.”

Ellen added: “We have completely different personalities and I think that’s why we work well together.”

Jerry is sure that the future of St Luke’s Inn is “undoubtedly” safe in the hands of the next generation of Carroll’s.

He said: “I’m happy to take a back seat and see the business go on and get better and better.”

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