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Connacht Tribune

Barna duo put their faith in craft beers and burger business

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It was 6pm on the first Friday of July this summer when Barna men David Fitzpatrick and Frank Greaney officially opened the doors to the public of their joint new business venture: BóTOWN, a craft burgers and beer restaurant, in Galway city’s Westend.

Frank, a senior courts’ reporter with Newstalk and formerly of Galway Bay fm, and David, a medical rep with a strong business background, had spent the guts of the previous three years toiling to realise their long-held desire of owning a restaurant.

“We were ready to roll. Our dream had finally become a reality and we opened and there was tumbleweed,” recalled Frank.

“In our minds, we were thinking there’d be queues of people down the street, people battering each other to try and get in the door to taste our burgers! The one piece of the puzzle that you couldn’t anticipate or plan for was no customers. For the first 45 minutes, until somebody walked in that door, that was the scariest part of this whole journey, and you’re thinking ‘My God, is it too late to turn back now?’,” he said.

It was too late to turn back. And nor did they want to. The duo, who grew up together and knew each other since their days in Scoil Shéamais Naofa in Barna, had invested too much money and, in particular, time and energy into the project for that.

St Patrick’s Day, 2017 was their original opening date but the restoration of the building on Lower Dominick Street – which was formerly Galway Taxi’s office and Dympna Burke’s Drapery before that – took longer than expected, due to it being a protected structure.

“The building was just calling out to be revived,” recalled David, who sourced the premises. “It was 5am starts for 18 months. It really was a labour of love, but it went on and on,” he said.

It was worth the wait, however, and the restoration work on the three-storey building, with two of those storeys now open for diners, is spectacular. They used salvaged materials throughout, including natural stone and reclaimed natural wood – old floorboards from a house in Newcastle. They stripped back the plastered walls to reveal old brick fireplaces, a feature of the two dining spaces; while upstairs, the original Victorian sash windows have been restored, and offer great people-watching opportunities. The light fixtures are made from old Gunbarrel piping and stopcock and the filament is visible in the large traditional bulbs. “We wanted to create an industrial rustic theme,” said David.

The budget was tight, and the pair did much of the clear-out themselves with some help from family and friends, many of who initially tried to talk them out of taking on such a huge project.

“People thought we were mad,” said Frank. “But we always had each other’s backs, no matter what. We had a vision and we were always going to execute it.”

They faced personal adversity during the rebuild, too. Frank’s father – John Greaney Senior – passed away in January of this year and not long after that Frank was sent to Belfast to cover the high-profile rape trial of two Ireland rugby internationals, for which he won a prestigious award.

John Greaney had been a well-known tradesman, and one of his friends, Mike Walsh, who helped with BóTOWN, used some of John’s plastering tools to finish the walls of the building. A classy touch.

No wonder then the lads celebrated their first customer. David admits he “wanted to hug” the first person who came through the doors while Frank remembers they were “high-fiving” after that diner left happy.

The pair’s first business venture together came during their fourth year of Secondary School in St Enda’s College, Salthill, when they organised a school social in Portumna. David remembers the “wodges of cash” they made from the event, which Frank describes as a “rip-roaring success”, until they were hauled before principal, Vincent Kilbane, the following Monday and suspended because it was an unofficial social organised in the school’s name without prior authorisation.

Frank has extensive catering industry experience, having worked in well-known pubs in Galway city including Living Room (now Seven), Cuba (now McGettigan’s) King’s Head, Dew Drop Inn and Front Door; and the two of them worked together in Donnelly’s of Barna seafood bar and restaurant, behind the bar and waiting tables, during college.

“I worked; Frank showed up,” joked David. “When we weren’t stealing profiteroles from the cold room we used to have competitions about who could carry the most plates – there were a few casualties as a result!”

On a serious note, David said it was in Donnelly’s they learned “how unsociable the hours are” but also the “buzz you get out of it”.

Now that they’re back in the industry, hands-on serving in the restaurant, while also holding down full-time ‘day jobs’, they’re experiencing that buzz again. “You make time for the stuff you love and we love it,” said Frank.

The idea for BóTOWN was simple. “We love barbecues. Sitting down every summer among friends with a few beers and burgers,” he said.

The pair could talk for hours about what distinguishes BóTOWN’s burger from its competitors – beef-to-bun ratios, seasoning, cuts of beef and so on – but the fundamental is the quality of ingredients. Their tomatoes, for example, are beef tomatoes and smoked in-house using hickory wood chips. They tried about 12 different types of potatoes before choosing Maris Pipers for their chips, which are washed and chopped on-site – as opposed to bought-in – and cooked twice in beef dripping.

As well as beef, they have fish, chicken and vegetable burgers, a variety of side dishes such as chicken wings, charred corn on the cob and mac n cheese; an extensive selection of craft beers – in ‘small-boy cans’, which are all the rage these days – and wines and hot drinks.

It’s a family-friendly restaurant that can hold 60 people, and caters for large bookings including Christmas parties, where the emphasis is on casual dining and pleasing the customer.

“Every job that we’ve been involved in has been about people. It’s always about the customers and the people you meet and the journey along the way. They come in because they become your buddies – they’re not just customers. They keep coming back,” said David.

Frank agreed: “This was a taxi office in a previous life, and it was a place where you’d go to get home. When we open our doors, this feels like our home and we’re inviting you and yours into ours.”

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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