'It’s nice to know they can find a sense of comfort in Coughlans': Cork venue says warm welcome key to success 

'It’s nice to know they can find a sense of comfort in Coughlans': Cork venue says warm welcome key to success 
Coughlan's bar and live-music venue on Douglas Street.

NESTLED toward the end of Douglas Street, Coughlan's bar is a testament to the saying 'good things come in small packages'. 

The intimate venue is steeped in history and has seen countless renowned musicians and comedians take to the stage over the years; Glen Hansard, Mick Flannery, Lisa Hannigan, Sarah Jarosz, Joanne McNally, Al Lubel and Alison Spittle, to name but a few. 

At the helm of Coughlan’s is Edel Curtin who has been a key component in the venue’s growth to becoming a fulcrum of Cork’s music scene. 

"I became a partner/shareholder in Coughlan's around a year after the lease had been taken over by the guys that have The Welcome Inn. 

"I used to gig in The Welcome in and knew the guys that had the bar. 

"They mentioned they were taking over another bar and asked would I mind having a look at it to see if music might work there to get people in - and so the Monday night session was born and the start of Coughlans becoming a music venue," the Mitchelstown native explained. 

From humble beginnings, Coughlan’s steadily rose to prominence and now has an impressive list of accolades to its name. 

Coughlan's Live Bar and Music Venue who won an award at the IMRO Live Music Venue Awards 2019. Photo by Ruth Medjber.
Coughlan's Live Bar and Music Venue who won an award at the IMRO Live Music Venue Awards 2019. Photo by Ruth Medjber.

Most recently, it was crowned Irish Music Venue of the Year for the second time at IMRO’s national music venue awards earlier this month. 

"It’s a hugely humbling feeling to win again, we’re the only venue to do it twice," Edel said. 

"When we won in 2013 it was incredible and a huge boost for us. 

"We were only newly open and trying to establish ourselves so it was the kickstart that we needed. 

"To know that we had such massive support from everyone instilled a confidence in us. 

"This time felt different and probably meant more in all honesty. 

"For me personally, I’ve always felt success is in being consistent and staying true to what you set out to create and I think this is an affirmation that we’re doing that," she continued.

The 120-capacity venue by nature affords audiences with the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experience of a live performance and this, in Edel’s eyes, is a unique selling point for the venue. 

"Seeing some of your very favourite acts in such a small venue is an amazing feeling.

"Watching people like Mick Flannery, Anais Mitchell, Lisa Hannigan, Jack O'Rourke and so many other incredible artists enjoy playing the venue is so rewarding. 

"The audiences' reaction too is always something I get a kick out of, especially when it’s their first time in Coughlan's," she said. 

In addition to the intimate nature of the venue, there are a few more elements Edel credits for Coughlan's recipe for success, most notably the dedicated team and a set of core values at the heart of the business.

"I think respect is number one. 

"Respect for the musicians, the audience and the staff. 

"Without that, nothing else works. 

"Honesty and transparency are very important too when dealing with musicians and customers and of course making people feel welcome and giving them a great experience is essential," she said.

"We’re extremely fortunate with the team we have. 

"We’re very lucky to have Brian Hassett who is also my business partner in Coughlan's Live Promotions, Mick Daly always does an incredible job on sound and of course, the bar team who always go out of their way to make sure everyone has a great time and contribute massively to the vibe and atmosphere in Coughlan's," Edel added. 

Brian Hassett organsier 'Coughlans Live' with Edel Curtin owner of Coughlans Bar. Picture: Gavin Browne
Brian Hassett organsier 'Coughlans Live' with Edel Curtin owner of Coughlans Bar. Picture: Gavin Browne

With a universal appeal, Coughlan's is for many Cork people, the venue which calls to mind a plethora of happy memories, whether it be a quiet evening in the bar spent conversing with friends next to the fire or an exhilarating night of live music. 

For Edel, there are too many to choose a favourite.

"I don’t think there is a 'best' act as such. 

"I think there have been many very special gigs. 

"Glen Hansard playing with Leonard Cohen’s guitarist, Javier Mas, was a very special moment. 

"Some of the earlier shows like FRED, Walking on Cars, Interference - they were all great shows but all for very different reasons. 

"Seeing newer acts emerge and become successful in their own right like Paddy Dennehy, Emma Langford & Anna Mieke is always great to watch too," she said. 

Despite their remarkable success, Coughlan's is showing no signs of resting on their laurels, with a slew of exciting acts booked for the coming months.

"Wallis Bird is back at the end of March, she’s always one of my favourites to have. 

"A Lazarus Soul are with us in August which is one I’m very excited about, their album is amazing. 

"We have our 9th annual Coughlans Festival at the end of September too so we’re currently programming that," Edel outlined. 

One thing that has remained a constant for Coughlan's over the years is their loyal cohort of customers - something which Edel is hugely appreciative of.

"They always support us and that means an awful lot. 

"There have been lots of nice exchanges, in particular when customers get to meet their favourite musicians.

"They often stay for a drink and chat after and are happy to meet the audience, something that doesn’t happen as much in bigger venues. 

"That’s something that people really appreciate and makes the whole experience all the more special.

"We’ve seen times too where customers might be going through a bad time in their lives and come in for some music, or a chat or just some company," she said.

"It’s nice to know they can find a sense of comfort in Coughlans."


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