Wednesday 25 April 2018

'They are tearing down a big part of my life' - Robbie Fox looks on as Renards crumbles

Robbie Fox’s Frederick St nightspot was a place where celebs and clubbers felt equally at home, reports Niamh Horan

CLUB CULTURE: Robbie Fox who ran VIP hangout Renards for 17 years. Photo: David Conachy
CLUB CULTURE: Robbie Fox who ran VIP hangout Renards for 17 years. Photo: David Conachy
Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood with his then wife Jo frequented Renards. Photo: Brian McEvoy
David Bowie. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Robbie Fox is standing at the corner of Frederick Street watching the bricks tumble from the place he made a clubber’s paradise for 30 years.

By pure coincidence the building that once housed Renards nightclub opened this month 30 years ago, which also marks the 30th anniversary that Robbie started working as a junior barman at the club.

“I get emotional when I stand here watching it. It was my life. They are tearing down a big part of my life. A place where I made so many friends and good memories.”

A man passes down the street and spots the familiar face.

“Ahh those were the good oul days, eh Robbie?” he smiles before hurrying past in the rain.

“Yeah I’m trying to get back in,” says Fox. “I’m sure I’ve left some money in the safe.”

It’s the wit that people came to love as he stood at the door for two decades, six days a week.

The charm of Renards was the eclectic mix of clientele, from Grafton street buskers and local bands to global superstars including David Bowie and Sting.

“If you took people in and showed them around in the daylight, they’d wonder what all the fuss was about. There was no special seating or decor. But it came alive at night. In the very real sense of the word it was a ‘club’. A small community where everyone knew everyone. You could have the roadie from U2 or a big businessman doing a deal in the far corner but everyone got on because they had a similar attitude.

“Guys like U2 and Colin Farrell and the Corrs, these guys partook just the same as everybody else. There were no airs and graces. We were all special there.”

Part of the magic mix was that the party was everyone’s for the taking: “Each and every one of the staff were part of it. They didn’t get upset if people swung them around the room. Unfortunately I was part of it a bit too often,” he laughs. “I encouraged it. But I made some good friends getting stuck in with them.”

He says: “I got bad publicity at one stage for staying open so late but that’s because I never wanted the party to end. If I thought it was going well I’d keep it going.”

“I do remember one night where the place was jammed with celebrities really giving it a lash and it just went off the rails. There were 57 people in the VIP room. And I remember the barman looking at me and the order was 57 shots of baby Guinness; then there were 57 shots of B52’s and then 57 shots of tequila. It was lunatic, off the charts and the DJ was whacking the music out. There was no social media in those days but talk of it spread like wildfire across town.”

“Renards was the height of the Celtic Tiger. I remember in 2006, 2007, some guys making lunatic amounts of money.

“When money is around like that you have the guys with the money, the entourage they bring, the deals being done with them and then you’ve got the good looking women on their arm. You’ve got Ferraris and limos pulling up outside the front door. It was a wild time.”

There was one bit of madness he wished he cashed in on: “I remember somebody offering me stupid money for the club and I wouldn’t sell it. God when I look back on it now,” he laughs. “Everybody thought things were more valuable than they were. But that was the stupidness of the Celtic Tiger.

“When your waiters and waitresses are asking for your advice on getting mortgages and they are only part time, you know there’s something wrong. From the bartender to the taxi driver everyone was talking about buying property.”

Revealing some of the club’s secrets he said: “One night a very famous musician held his stag party. The pool table ended up covered in pink dye. Everyone always wondered why I never recovered the stains but it gave me some good memories,” he says. “He’ll know who he is when he reads this.”

“Another night a well-known star and his fiance had a massive row and she tore the engagement ring off and threw it at him. It was worth about €100,000 in today’s money and as we pulled them apart all the staff dropped to the ground looking for the ring. As I moved her towards the door away from the argument I was panicking thinking we were going to be blamed if it was lost. I said ‘this isn’t good, we gotta find it’ and I’ll never forget her opening her hand and she was clasping it safe. She just looked at me and winked and said ‘Robbie, you don’t think I’m that stupid,” he says.

Turning to leave the demolition company finish its work he says: “None of us like to get old, but I do feel they are tearing down a big part of my life. In two years time when they rebuild it nobody will ever remember Renards. That type of thing makes us feel mortal.”

This week messages flooded into Fox’s social media page from revellers wishing him well and saying thanks for the memories.

It seems people know the building was just the chance location for their antics. But it’s Robbie that carries the real spirit of the club.

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