Kerry legend Pat Spillane was awarded more than €19,500 yesterday in a court action he took against a former tenant of his pub for rent owed and restoration work.
Michael O'Connor, a father of two who is now unemployed, had taken out a lease on the pub, Pat Spillane's Bar, in Templenoe, Co Kerry, in 2005 and had vacated it of his own accord in February 2008.
In Tralee Circuit Civil Court Court yesterday, Mr O'Connor denied damage to property, saying he had left the bar in the state in which it had been given to him and had also carried out improvements during his tenure. Mr O'Connor, of Fuschia Court, Paric na Gloine, Kenmare, represented himself because he claimed he could not afford a lawyer.
He said business at the rural bar -- located on the road between Sneem and Kenmare -- had suffered drastically in the 2006/2007 period because of the smoking ban and curbs on drink driving.
During the first year, he made a profit of around €20,000.
However, business "deteriorated dramatically" and he had had to borrow to pay his VAT bill. The bar is now in the hands of a new tenant. The lease stipulated rent of €2,500 a month, which doubled during the busy tourist months of July and August.
Mr Spillane, who won eight senior All-Ireland medals, had claimed more than €31,000 in total; €14,500 of which was for five months' rent, and more than €14,000 was for the "restoration" of the premises. The rest of the claim was for water charges and rates, but Kerry Co Council had waived these.
However, the court heard that a large part of the work carried out and claimed for in the figure -- including the installation of a new toilet system -- was in the nature of "vast improvement" of an old building. Judge Ray Fullam allowed just €5,000 for restoration.
Mr Spillane, who told reporters he was still working as a teacher and was vice-principal in a secondary school in Bantry, Co Cork, is also employed by RTE and the 'Sunday World' newspaper.
In his evidence, Mr Spillane told the court that he had inherited the bar from his mother and had rented it first to a Mr O'Dowd. In 2005, Mr O'Connor had taken the lease.
During the first year, Mr Spillane said he would often visit the bar for a drink but had stopped doing so in the last year of Mr O'Connor's lease.
"It was a filthy, badly run bar. The customers were not going in there. It just didn't do me any good. I kept away from it and I only live 100 yards away," he said.
He told the court that the 'Sunday World's' pub spy reporter received a lot of correspondence from customers claiming that the bar was unhygienic.
Asked by the judge why he didn't "step in earlier" if that was the case, Mr Spillane replied his accountant was the one who dealt with the lease matters.
He also said that his wife became tearful when she saw the condition of the rooms upstairs. The previous tenant was still in situ when Mr O'Connor took over, Mr Spillane confirmed under cross-examination by the defendant.
The current tenant, Garett O'Mahony, a quantity surveyor by profession, had taken over the lease in April 2008. He said he had reached agreement with Mr Spillane and his accountant to carry out works in lieu of rent. Mr O'Mahony had also carried out "vast improvements", which included replacing the urinals. "The existing system was a trough you would see at a football match," he said.
That had been replaced now with enamel urinals, Mr O'Mahony said.
The judge awarded €19,520 to Mr Spillane, plus costs.