Cork bar: A place where people mark life’s milestones

We continue our series of interviews with Cork’s bar owners. This week CHRIS DUNNE visits the Boot House Bar, Upper Glanmire
Cork bar: A place where people mark life’s milestones

Brian Kenny at the Boot House Bar, Upper Glanmire, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

OWNER of the Boot House Bar in Upper Glanmire, Brian Kenny, describes the lifting of restrictions and the re-opening of the hospitality industry as ‘like winning the lotto’.

“To be honest with you, it’s like winning the lotto - we are over the moon to be getting back to normal and welcoming our customers back again,” says Brian.

This is a man who is at home behind the bar.

“We are doing what we love doing,” says Brian.

“The Boot House is a traditional pub where people like to mark the milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, christenings and weddings. We are a country pub near the city. It is a great location having the country setting.”

The bar dates back to at least 1773 and it has been in the Kenny family, apart from a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for well over 100 years.

Brian and his wife, Louise, took over the bar in 2008. His parents Derry and Bernie ran the pub for 35 years before that.

The Boot House survived the pandemic.

“It looked like a bridge too far and we were waiting to see if we had a future or not,” says Brian.

“The Boot House can be traced back almost 250 years, so there is huge history attached to it.

“Generations of families have come here for decades. We worried that it might be coming to an end. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

“All our regular customers, who are our friends as well, are delighted that our doors are open again for business.”

The rural pub is a hub for people to meet and chat.

“We cannot underestimate how vital pubs like ours are for rural Ireland,” says Brian.

“This pub has been a community pub for hundreds of years.”

The vital link was missing during Covid when the pubs were closed.

“That missing community link has been all too apparent over the past while,” says Brian.

“Local people met up regularly to socialise with their long-time friends, many who are older. That was suddenly gone,” says Brian.

Celebrations were at an all time low.

“The hardest part of being closed and closed at 8pm was missing out on occasions,” says Brian.

“The Boot House is where our customers and friends come to mark the milestones in their lives.

The pub is family orientated.

“Louise’s parents were 50 years married a couple of months ago, one of our friends was 50 and one of our long-standing customers who is also our friend, turned 70. It was a pity we couldn’t celebrate those nice occasions with family and friends here.”

But things are looking brighter for the pub industry.

“We now have to look forward and focus on the brighter days ahead,” says Brian.

“This has always been a bar that people gather in, especially older people on a Sunday night. They like to catch up with other and catch up on the gossip.

“The Boot House is a meeting place. We couldn’t wait to welcome back the community through our doors. Now we can. We are very much a family-orientated pub.”

Being a publican is a way of life for him.

“What do I like about it? Pretty much everything,” says Brian.

“I grew up here and I was in the bar since I was eight years old. My mum grew up with the pub business and her mother before her. The pub business is a passion of mine. I missed it so much when we were closed and now it is an absolute pleasure to be back open for business.”

What did he do when he wasn’t open for business?

“I tried to keep occupied and I tried to keep busy,” says Brian.

Marmaduke kept him occupied.

“I had the legs walked off my dog,” says Brian.

“I think he is two feet shorter now as a result!”

Louise and Brian Kenny at the Boot House Bar, Upper Glanmire, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Louise and Brian Kenny at the Boot House Bar, Upper Glanmire, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Brian will be clocking up the steps behind the counter now instead of on the highways and byways.

“That is true,” says Brian. “I’m delighted to be stepping back inside the counter. The first weekend of re-opening was fantastic”

It was fantastic to be up at the bar again for a drink.

“We have great characters coming into the pub who like to sit in the same place every evening. They like the familiarity of that. One regular gentleman loves his spot standing at the corner of the counter.

“He was very put out when the restrictions were in place, we were doing table service and he couldn’t stand there! The first Saturday night when things were back to normal he was standing in his usual spot. Now he’s delighted with himself!”

The Boot House was revamped to welcome back the customers.

“We did general maintenance around the building and we re-decorated inside and we re-varnished all the wood-work.

“We tipped away, making sure everything was up to scratch. We wanted everything ship-shape ready to re-open.”

Michael says it is good to be back and in a regular routine.

“It is handy to be back open and we are hoping to stay open now. I’m confident that we will. We are very lucky that all our customers came back to us when we opened up. We really appreciate it.”

Does Michael appreciate the long hours that the pub trade demands?

“I don’t mind the long hours,” he says.

“I’m used to doing long hours all my life. It is second nature to me. I think it is like a vocation; a way of life.”

Michael’s body clock is accustomed to working late at night.

“I don’t go to bed early and I’m up very late at night; but it doesn’t bother me. My body clock is used to it.”

Michael is used to his loyal customers.

“I want to thank our loyal customers for standing by us in good times and in bad times,” says Michael.

Now it’s full steam ahead for the Boot House.

“We’re hoping for a great summer and it’s full speed ahead from here,” says Michael. “We must all stay positive. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t get out of bed.”

The summer is looking good for the bar.

“We are so thankful we got back to doing what we love.”

Next week: Mok’s bar, The Lough.

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