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.”
Galway to complete vaccine roll-out by end of the summer
On the first anniversary of Covid-19’s deadly arrival into Ireland, the head of the Saolta hospital group has predicted that all who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of the summer.
Tony Canavan, CEO of the seven public hospitals, told the Connacht Tribune that the HSE was planning to set up satellite centres from the main vaccination hub at the Galway Racecourse to vaccinate people on the islands and in the most rural parts of the county.
While locations have not yet been signed up, the HSE was looking at larger buildings with good access that could be used temporarily to carry out the vaccination programme over a short period.
“We do want to reach out to rural parts of the region instead of drawing in people from the likes of Clifden and over from the islands. The plan is to set up satellites from the main centre, sending out small teams out to the likes of Connemara,” he explained.
“Ideally we’d run it as close as possible to the same time that the main centres are operating once that is set up. Communication is key – if people know we’re coming, it will put people’s minds at rest.”
Get all the latest Covid-19 coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway meteorologist enjoying new-found fame in the sun!
Growing up in Galway where four seasons in a day is considered a soft one, Linda Hughes always had a keen interest in the weather.
But unlike most Irish people, instead of just obsessing about it, she actually went and pursued it as a career.
The latest meteorologist to appear on RTE’s weather forecasts hails from Porridgtown, Oughterard, and brings with her an impressive background in marine forecasting.
She spent six years in Aerospace and Marine International in Aberdeen, Scotland, which provides forecasts for the oil and gas industry.
The 33-year-old was a route analyst responsible for planning routes for global shipping companies. She joined the company after studying experimental physics in NUIG and doing a masters in applied meteorology in Redding in the UK.
“My job was to keep crews safe and not lose cargo by picking the best route to get them to their destination as quickly as possibly but avoiding hurricanes, severe storms,” she explains.
“It was a very interesting job, I really enjoyed it but it was very stressful as you were dealing with bad weather all the time because there’s always bad weather in some part of the world.”
Read the full interview with Linda Hughes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Great-great-grandmother home after Covid, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery
Her family are understandably calling her their miracle mum – because an 81 year old great-great-grandmother from Galway has bounced back from Covid-19, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery since Christmas…to return hale and hearty, to her own home.
But Mary Quinn’s family will never forget the trauma of the last three months, as the Woodford woman fought back against all of the odds from a series of catastrophic set-backs.
The drama began when Mary was found with a bleed on her brain on December 16. She was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital, and transferred to Beaumont a day later where she underwent an emergency procedure – only to then suffer a stroke.
To compound the crisis, while in Beaumont, she contracted pneumonia, suffered heart failure and developed COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.
“Christmas without mom; things did not look good,” said her daughter Catherine Shiel.
But the worst was still to come – because before Mary was discharged, she contracted Covid-19.
Read Mary’s full, heart-warming story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie