Normally a pub crawl involves customers making their way to several licensed premises on a night out – but one enterprising Galwayman has turned that on his head . . . by bringing his hostelry on a tour of American’s biggest cities instead!
John Walsh’s version of bringing the mountain to Muhammed is already creating waves on the other side of the Atlantic, with high profile features on his bar in a host of top US publications.
This is no ordinary pub however – the Shebeen is a bespoke, customised caravan that brings the traditional feel of an Irish bar right to your doorstep.
It’s the brainchild of Clarenbridge native who first came up with the concept of converting a dilapidated 30-year-old caravan – he’d paid €800 for it to go to the Electric Picnic – into a mobile Irish pub in 2014.
The following year the Electric Picnic was running a competition – to design a caravan which would become an installation in the festival trailer park.
It had to be interactive and cut a dash among the organisers’ own unique creations which are used to host gigs and events.
“I thought this is the chance to do something with the caravan lying in the yard. I wanted to create an old style pub. There were 130 entries and five were chosen.
“Mine wasn’t one of those but we stayed going with it anyway as a project on Friday afternoons to unwind after the week,” he said.
And this week he is showing off the latest creation in his mobile pub ‘family’ – the Connemara Shebeen – across the US where he has already been spotted in Boston, New York and Connecticut.
John has taken part in the South Boston Parade, the Rhode Island parade; he’s been speaking to Forbes magazine, IrishCentral.com, Boston Magazine and has been interviewed by TV Network NECN. And this week, he’s in New York to meet media.
“The interest in Ireland has been huge since we built the first Shebeen in 2014, and with more and more enquiries coming from the States over the last twelve months, we felt we had to visit America to personally introduce our little pub on wheels!” said John.
“The decision to come here to Boston was made even easier thanks to my own connections – we have family living here just south of the city. And with an estimated 33 million Americans having Irish ancestry, it’s a real pleasure to be able deliver an authentic little piece of Ireland to the US market,” he added.
Built in Galway, the Connemara Shebeen boasts authentic Irish interiors that resemble a traditional Irish pub – featuring fold-down windows for outdoor entertaining, a fully functional mobile bar, and the obligatory high Nelly bicycle!
John is a cabinet maker by trade and had built custom-made kitchens with JW Design and for the last three years cleanroom furniture for pharmaceutical companies through his company Clinical Cabinets.
He got his five employees involved in the original project, which took six months to complete.
The interior woodwork is handcrafted in Irish oak, which has been stained and distressed to recreate a vintage feel. There is used solid pine on the floor and the seats are designed to look old and well worn.
The Shebeen also includes seating for up to ten people; a cooler and taps for two draft beers; an electric stove heater, and a music sound system.
Antique pictures, mirrors and carefully selected pub memorabilia which came from an old pub in Monaghan adorn the walls, which have been papered in traditional patterned wallpaper.
As well as an antique cash register and electric stove, gracing one wall is an old hurl with a set of false teeth imbedded in it.
Outside the white polystyrene cladding resembles a white washed cottage, with the door the only thing remaining of the original caravan, which can open out to replicate the traditional cottage half-doors.
He plans to build up to eight next year, most of them bound for the US and Canadian markets where he will rent them out under a licence. He has taken out a trademark for the concept and is confident nobody will be allowed copy it.
“The Shebeen has proven that it fits perfectly into any contemporary setting, bringing a unique focal point to weddings, birthdays, family gatherings, company events and other celebrations,” he said.
“It has become known as ‘the star of the party’ and it is the embodiment of the Irish love of stories, laughter, music and, of course, the craic! Whatever the occasion, The Shebeen offers an atmosphere unlike any other, to make your event a memorable one.”
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.