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Thursday 22 February 2018

Banks to blame for shut pubs -- Charlie Chawke

BARRY EGAN

The banks are to blame for so many pubs closing down, says famous Dublin publican Charlie Chawke as he bucked the trend and re-opened a famous Baggot Street bar.

"They shut down because the banks are calling in the loans. They gave them money to buy places and then when the recession came, the capital value has halved at least. So the bank wants half their money back and it's not there," he said.

"So the banks are just being smart I think. If they had a bit more patience and leave it alone, we'd all grow out of this recession and we'd all pay back the bank eventually. But at the moment you can't pay what you don't have.

"It is very unfortunate that they have called in a lot of decent people -- especially in my business in the last two years," he added. "A lot of publicans have been called in and closed down. It is just sad. The banks haven't given any debt-forgiveness yet but they'll have to, I believe, and the sooner the better, and then we can all start again."

Mr Chawke said he feels "very sad" for businesses who have found themselves in Nama.

"These people are developers and builders -- and they built this city over the last 15 years. They got the money from the banks to do so. And unfortunately now that the banks and the Government have turned their back on them, they are in trouble. They gave a great city to Dublin. They took the risk and they got the money the bank threw at them. They threw money at me as well."

Mr Chawke admits that, like many others, he didn't see the financial armageddon coming.

"All I saw was banks throwing money at us. And if anyone throws money at me, I'll take it. We have our own problems but I don't think we're in that much trouble, as long as the banks are understanding."

He was speaking at the quiet re-opening of Searsons pub in Baggot Street last Wednesday.

"It has been run by colourful characters over the years," said Mr Chawke, who is no stranger to the colourful himself. The charismatic publican, who was shot in the leg during a robbery outside his pub The Goat in 2003 -- he had his leg subsequently amputated -- is also optimistic about Dublin city, despite the recent spate of murders.

"It's mostly drugs, isn't it? I don't think Dublin is a bad city. Take the drug scene out of it and there's not really many others being killed. It's a great city. I love it. It's my city now," said Mr Chawke, who was born in Adare, Co Limerick.

"I reared my family and they're all doing well, even in recessionary times. I have two lovely grandchildren and [daughter] Ali is going to give me another one very shortly," he said.

Ali who runs the Orchard pub in Rathfarnham got married recently. They both laugh at the rumour that Charlie gave her Searsons as a wedding present. "That's ridiculous and completely untrue," laughed Ali.

I asked her father how does he look back on the day of the attempted robbery. "I have no bad feelings about it," he said philosophically. "It just happened to me. I would say: 'Thank God it happened to me and not to one of my staff because I was the boss and I was entitled to take whatever rap was coming. It would have killed me if it had happened to one of my staff or one of my kids. That would have been worse. I am fine."

Mr Chawke forgave the man who shot him. "What's the point in not forgiving because it wouldn't bring back my leg anyway?" he said.

"I might as well forget about it and get on with life and enjoy it. And I have enjoyed it -- I have bought three pubs since it happened to me. I have a lovely family and I have been at my daughters' weddings and enjoyed my life. I work hard and enjoy life and, above all, I treat everyone fairly."

Sunday Independent

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