Glory days set to return to The Pav

Publican Benny McCabe will return the venue to its glory days as a cinema, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Glory days set to return to The Pav

Publican Benny McCabe outside The Pav bar/nightclub venue. Picture: Larry Cummins

It's been an interesting couple of weeks for music and while the prospect of indoor parties looks no nearer for now, there has been cause for optimism in other areas. The big local news is that publican Benny McCabe has purchased The Pav bar and nightclub, along with his brother, Leo. Benny already owns many of Cork’s foremost bars, and has promised a return to the venue’s glory days as a cinema, with high-end table service and musicals being some of the entertainment.

It’s 100 years since The Pav opened and it was an amazing cinema. For much of the last 30 years it was a nightclub, but many of the old features remain, including a stunning rooftop. I was involved in running it for seven years and I know all about the challenges, so I’m delighted that Benny is in there now. He has a great track record in Cork and he always puts his own stamp on his venues.

I wrote here recently that I feared that The Pav’s days as a venue were no more. I’m relieved that such an iconic city centre venue won’t become retail or apartments or office blocks; there are enough vacant buildings to satisfy those needs.

The Pav has a lot of history, but it’s time to combine this with an eye to the next era. We have lost many cinemas in Cork over the years, so I’m particularly pleased that Benny is looking at things from this perspective.

The Pav was also a great nightclub and I’m sure there is potential to use it as such, but Benny’s outlook may be the seven-days-a-week model, rather than throwing all the focus on the club. The window of opportunity for a nightclub is small and it’s further limited by our archaic licensing laws. With a venue, you have to ‘turn it’ a lot and this means that for seven days there should be shows from early to late. The bar downstairs also has great potential and I’m sure Benny will do something cool with that, too.

I have worked for Benny and Leo at many of their venues and I’m confident they will get it right. I met Benny in the street last summer and he was optimistic about the Cork that will emerge from this pandemic.

We need to have people who believe in our city to be running it and it’s a big injection of confidence in our nightlife, too, which has received many blows over recent years. Cork has amazing potential and people love coming here. But we need our arts and music and culture spaces to be open and The Pav is one of the best.

From a clubbing perspective, Dali is a big loss. They focused mainly on dance and they provided a space for many DJs and promoters and club nights that will find it difficult to find a venue now. It’s hard running club nights, with more of them retreating underground and with many other issues making it a pretty thankless task. When we do eventually emerge from the pandemic, I hope that nightclub licensing laws will be changed. Cork is mirroring other cities, in Ireland and around the world, in that we are losing many of our nightclubs and venue spaces. Many developers are sitting on buildings that often lie idle for years, and it’s imperative that we protect those, such as The Pav, that have historical cultural importance.

On the plus side, some of those venues that are still open are being bullish, too. Cyprus Avenue have a very busy autumn and winter schedule of gigs and they are another venue that can be turned into a late-night club.

Tickets are flying for high-profile gigs, such as Kojaque, but like every other promoter or venue, Cyprus still face uncertainty regarding capacity and closing times. This industry has been paused for 16 months, bar a few bits and pieces, and we need some cause for optimism.

Another small beacon of light is shining on Test Site, on Kyrls Quay, which is a temporary structure housing an impressive pavilion that is showcasing some amazing art, talks, and events this summer.

On July 18, I’ll be hosting a vinyl event there, raising awareness about Safegigs Ireland, a project that is helping make nightlife safe from sexual assault and harassment.

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