A drinks giant is to reverse its decision to permanently shut the doors on an award-winning tourist attraction.
Diageo, which had been operating The Smithwicks Experience, announced last April that it was closing the attraction, resulting in job losses and a negative knock-on impact on Kilkenny tourism and business interests.
It is now expected to re-open in the Summer of next year.
The Smithwick's Experience, based in the Abbey Quarter, has been closed since March 2020 at the onset of Covid-19. Prior to the pandemic, the Centre was seeing approximately 68,000 visitors annually.
Mayor of Kilkenny, Fianna Fáil councillor Andrew McGuinness said he, along with several other councillors and business interests, received emails on Tuesday morning confirming the tourist attraction would once again be opened.
“As Mayor of Kilkenny, I’m delighted to see that the Smithwick’s Experience has been saved and will continue to play an integral part in our tourist and visitor offering. Well done to our vintners and all involved in the process”.
The email sent from Diageo said: “We are delighted to announce that Smithwick’s Experience will reopen next year. We look forward to sharing the reopening plans in 2022.
“We would like to sincerely thank all the parties involved for their very positive engagement in the consultation process. The discussions have been constructive and wide-ranging, during which we collectively explored many options.”
The email added: “We appreciate all the support we have received to date, and we are delighted to continue with these discussions as we work towards creating a viable and sustainable solution for Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny for the future.
“It follows a campaign by a number of people and groupings who’d called for its return.”
Negotiations with Diageo involved the Vintners members, hotel representatives and business interests. A petition set up appealing the closure generated several thousand signatures.
The original brewery in Kilkenny closed in December 2013. The plant manufactured Smithwicks, Kilkenny ale, Budweiser and Harp lager. The site reopened as a visitor attraction in late July 2014.
Paul Smithwick, a member of the original family which owned the hugely successful family brewery, vowed to do all in their power to also ensure the attraction will re-open.
The Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny was the site where their alcohol was brewed from the 1700s. Previously, the site was owned by Franciscan friars who also brewed beer before they were dissolved during the Reformation in 1537.
The brewery stayed wholly within the Smithwicks family until 1964, when Guinness and Company (Diageo) bought a controlling share of the brewery.
Anthony Morrison, chair of the Kilkenny City and County speaking on KCLRfm radio added: "Team Kilkenny had a challenge when the Smithwick’s Experience closed, but there was 800 years of legacy to save. There was a sense of nervousness in a bid to save this for Kilkenny."
"Unfortunately for Diageo, they made a decision based probably on misinformation in so far as they didn’t see the greater potential going forward, but now they do and they are willing to address it and move forward.
"Once it’s a win-win for Kilkenny and a win-win for Diageo - it’s a win-win for everybody,” Mr Morrison added.