Family home with a pub attached is on the market for €1.2m in WicklowA family house and busy enterprise on offer in tandem in Co Wicklow
In days gone by most publicans lived over their premises - be it in big cities or in small country towns. They popped up and down the stairs, slipping from the working day to domestic life and back again in seconds.
While the residential pub died out long ago of the mainstream business in Dublin, it still occurs in rural towns, albeit on a less frequent and dwindling basis.
And the pub sector itself has taken a series of big knocks over the past decade, from the smoking ban to the recession, from changing social habits to bargain bucket alcohol prices at supermarkets, where a bottle of spirits can now be acquired for the price of two measures at the bar counter.
But in among the debris of the once massive Irish pub sector are the success stories. And in many cases, it has been those who have no background in the licenced trade who have managed to regenerate old tired pubs and create vibrant new ones.
When Shane and Caroline McNamara, two former property market and finance professionals, emerged from the debris of the housing market crash; they turned to running a pub and living over their business in the old-fashioned way.
While neither had any previous experience in the licenced trade, Shane had always wanted to run a pub and had suggested a number of times that they travel to the UK where breweries regularly leased pubs with homes overhead to married couples.
Shane had a mortgage brokerage business, in which Caroline also had an interest, and she had a long career as an estate agent working in the new homes sector.
Both believed the crash was eminent and decided to sell their home at the top of the market just before the bubble burst. Saving their equity they then invested in shares, which were wiped out in the aftermath of the global financial crash that followed. For a time after that Caroline ran a nail manicure business in Dublin city centre before the chance came up to take over a pub.
Six years ago this month they agreed to lease The Horse and Hound in Delgany, Co Wicklow, close to Greystones - but for all intents and purposes, a small rural village. The premises had been acquired by a friend and they took on a seven year lease with a vested financial performance interest based on developing the trade. In the old fashioned way, they'd be living in the significant 14 room residence overhead which had lain empty for years.
The Horse and Hound was founded as a licenced premises in 1790 and had long been known in a previous incarnation as the Seafield Hotel. In latter years the business had become run down.
"We were on a very sharp learning curve," says Caroline. "The first thing we did was refurbish the toilets. The pub sold 80pc Guinness and very few women came to drink there. We cleaned the place up and introduced uniforms and a slogan - 'Where nothing is too much trouble' - along with a policy of 'can do' customer care. Now we get asked: 'Can I have a pint ...if its not too much trouble'.
"We also had to root out a troublesome element among the regulars. We were forced to bar more than 50 people."
A refurbishment programme lead by interior designer Kari Rocca and BBA Architects was embarked on by the new owner, which saw the olde worlde aspects of the building preserved while upgrading the premises significantly. At the time the recession was in full swing and pubs were being hit hard. "The perceived wisdom was that anyone taking on a village pub had got rocks in their head, especially with the toughening drink driving regulations," says Caroline.
"The next thing I did was join the Delgany Community Council to get to know people and to find out what was happening in the area. I got involved in a campaign to light up the village for Christmas and in fundraising and charity events. This helped to build up contacts locally and our function business.
"We started running events and organised efficient social media channels to flag them. The International Spud Festival (in its seventh year) sees local growers cook their potato produce for sampling in competition for a cup. Other events included flamenco nights, plays, an annual barn dance hoe down and a July 4 American party."
Today the turnover is double what it was and this includes a rather unorthodox accommodation business upstairs - a B&B without breakfast. "It's a 'B'," says Caroline, "but it works."
"Our two children, now grown up, have been a great help to us and can run the pub when we are away. We were initially concerned about them growing up over a pub but they've learned so much in those years."
However, Shane warns: "It's also hard work. It's a 24-hour-a-day job 365 days a year. Really it's more of a vocation."
With the expiry of the lease the owner is selling the pub and residence seeking a new couple or family to live in and run it.
As it stands, the pub includes a traditional bar and a lounge twice its size. There's a function room and outdoor smoking and decking areas. The basement has a keg room and stores. On this floor is the breakfast room and pub kitchen.
Upstairs on the first floor in addition to eight Rocca-designed bedrooms, seven of which are en-suite, you have the family kitchen and living room as well as an office and a study.
It spans a formidable 8,072 sq ft. Future growth is possible through two channels - almost 1,000 new homes are due to be completed within a mile of the pub and because the pub serves no food, there is an opportunity to build a new income stream.
What will the McNamaras do next? "Find a nice beach in Portugal and Spain and lie there for a month," Shane and Caroline say in unison.
The Horse and Hound is on offer at €1.2m.
The Horse and Hound
Delgany, Co Wicklow
Asking price: €1.2m
Agent: Cushman and Wakefield (01) 6399300