Thursday 15 November 2018

Meet the teetotal Dublin pub boss who's taking over the capital

Paddy McKillen Jnr grew up with success at his door, writes Niamh Horan

Angelina’s
Angelina’s
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

James Joyce mused, in his magnum opus Ulysses, that a "good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub".

If alive today, perhaps the writer would ponder how to navigate the city without passing a hostelry operated by Dublin businessman Paddy McKillen Junior.

THE ELEPHANT AND CASTLE, TEMPLE BAR.
THE ELEPHANT AND CASTLE, TEMPLE BAR.

In 2013, the Sunday Independent crowned the son of developer Paddy McKillen Snr the man to watch on Dublin's nightlife scene. Back then, he had just opened 10 eateries in two years - with more than 630 staff on his books.

That looks like child's play now, given the businessman's epic strides since. With more than 30 businesses, including 11 restaurants, two hotels, 12 venues and more than 1,000 people on his team - the boy from Foxrock has left his competitors in his dust.

He grew up in the leafy enclave of The Birches on Torquay Road in Foxrock, the upmarket cul-de-sac that was home to a who's who of Irish business. Surrounded by some of the country's most successful names, he learned young to aim high. The McKillens were neighbours with the families of hotelier David Doyle, property developer Johnny Ronan (who built the luxury estate), businessman Sean Dunne, and the well-known business family the Cafollas.

His father would have taught him the ropes in development, catering and hotels (Paddy Snr once owned London's most famous hotels Claridges, the Connaught and The Berkeley with Derek Quinlan). Attending St Michael's College in Dublin 4, Paddy Jr proved a strong rugby player but friends describe him as "shy" and "unassuming".

Stella Cinema
Stella Cinema

"He still has a rugby player's build, someone straight out of a back row," said a friend. But although you'd see him coming, "most people wouldn't know him if they passed him on the street. And that's just how he likes to keep it".

Little is known about the intensely private man. The son of a former model, Maura, who now lives in LA, Paddy Jnr is married to Edel. The pair are rumoured to have met when she worked on the staff in Captain America's and in recent years are believed to be living in a pad worth more than €2m in the Ranelagh area of Dublin.

Read more: First Look: Are you ready to sink your teeth into Dublin's newest steakhouse Tomahawk?

The couple are said to have celebrated their wedding on his father's estate, Chateau La Coste, in the heart of southern France.

Dollard & Co restaurant on Wellington Quay. Photo: Tony Gavin
Dollard & Co restaurant on Wellington Quay. Photo: Tony Gavin

Paddy Jr is brother to Dean and Tyrone: one an equally successful developer, the other a top luxury real-estate mogul, both living in LA. He and his wife have two young children. As he conducts his site visits, Paddy sometimes brings them around with him at weekends.

As one source said: "He is a hard worker but a real daddy, very good with his kids."

With his head office based above one of his restaurants, Angelina's, he is often seen there during the day and sometimes ends the day by meeting his wife for supper.

When he is not with his family, it appears his mind is firmly on building his empire. Several people described him as a "workaholic" - in the best sense of the word.

Patrick McKillen. Photo: National Pictures
Patrick McKillen. Photo: National Pictures

Others said he was "incredibly focused" and "a very creative guy".

"He travels the world, keeping an eye on competitors. He would look at an empty shell of a building and have that ability to visualise the final product.

"He has a stylish eye for interiors and is tenacious- - once he has his mind set on something he will see it through to the very end," a source said.

Ironically, for one of Ireland's biggest pub and nightclub owners, McKillen doesn't drink alcohol.

Read more: VIDEO: Take a sneak peek inside Dublin's newest - and unique - food hall Dollard and Co

And you won't find him falling out of a club at all hours. (Following the age-old adage "never get high off your own supply", his biggest competitor, Alan Clancy, also shuns alcohol.)

He works hard, from 8am to 8pm, and one source said they wouldn't be surprised to find him on the job up to seven days a week. "He is in one of his venues every night of the week and at the weekend he would often float around, dropping in and doing on-site inspections and checking everything was OK. He is interested in what the next door neighbour is doing, who is doing business and who is bringing it in."

His appearance betrays little of his wealth. "He is not a flashy guy. He drives a Jeep, but not a Range Rover, he has also been seen in a little Fiat and an old BMW. And I don't think I have ever seen him in a three-piece suit. He's more of a shirt and jeans guy. More of a builder than a businessman."

So take a deep breath and count his successes: Sophie's; Angelina's; Dollard & Co; Elephant & Castle; Roberta's; Tomahawk; Union Cafe; Wagamama; Wowburger; The Dean Hotel; The Devlin Hotel; the Bison Bar; Everleigh Garden; The Garage Bar, Kennedy's Bar; Mary's Bar; Peruke & Periwig; Stella Cocktail Club; Suas; the Liquor Rooms; the Workman's Club, Vintage Cocktail Club; and the hip new Stella Theatre are all on his books. He is set to open another venue, The Dutch Billy, in the coming weeks.

Yet even close colleagues and friends were surprised when his company, Press Up Entertainment Group, whose directors include Matt Ryan and Liam Cunningham (no, not that Liam Cunningham) announced it was weighing up a stock market flotation last week. But regardless of what happens, with a turnover last year of €52m, don't be surprised if you see a stranger out and about this weekend, sipping a soda, with a smile.

Sunday Independent

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