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Sunday 22 September 2019

'Keeping the faith' - publicans in one rural town pledge to close on Good Friday despite new law

Publicans from Newmarket Co Cork who will remain closed as usual on Good Friday. From Left John O'Connell, High Street Bar, Julia McAuliffe, Scullys Pub, Michael Scanlan and John Scanlan, Scanlan's Bar, Newmarket. Photograph by Eamon Ward
Publicans from Newmarket Co Cork who will remain closed as usual on Good Friday. From Left John O'Connell, High Street Bar, Julia McAuliffe, Scullys Pub, Michael Scanlan and John Scanlan, Scanlan's Bar, Newmarket. Photograph by Eamon Ward

Gordon Deegan

All of the publicans in one rural town are going keep their doors shut and remain closed for business this coming Good Friday.

Six publicans based in the north Cork town of Newmarket coming together and deciding collectively that they will not open their doors in spite of the State lifting the 91-year old ban on publicans serving alcohol on Good Friday.

The publican, John Scanlon of Scanlon’s bar, Church Street, who first proposed the move in an initial chat with a colleague, said yesterday: “We have only two days off each year, Christmas Day and Good Friday and we want to hold onto that. It is a day publicans want to spend with their families.”

According to the most recent census, Newmarket has a population of 976 and the move has received an overwhelmingly positive response from pub customers in the town with one customer congratulating the publicans saying ‘well done Newmarket, keep up our traditions’.

Publican, Joan Hourigan has been serving pints from the behind the counter at Hourigan’s bar on Newmarket’s New Street for the past 50 years.

A mother-of--nine, five of her children are involved in the business and Ms Hourigan said that she has always enjoyed a day out or decorating their shut pub on Good Friday “and I don’t want to give that up”.

Ms Hourigan said that the day off on Good Friday “is something that I cherish and a tradition I want to maintain”.

She said that religion is playing only “a small part” in her decision to remain closed.

She said: “A lot of our customers would be older farmers and I wouldn’t think we would be particularly busy on Good Friday anyway. They have grown up with the tradition  and I think they will see it out.”

One of the other publicans in the village, Mick Hourigan announced the move to his customers on his pub’s Facebook page and the response from customers has been universally positive.

He  said yesterday: “There are 363 days a year when the pub is open and I think that it plenty. Soon they will want us to open on Christmas Day.

Mr Hourgian operates a bar and a night-club in the village employing more than 20 people and he said: “I wouldn’t ask my staff to work on Good Friday. What is around on a Friday is not a lot.”

In his comments, Mr Scanlon said: “The day off every Good Friday is a day that publicans look forward to.”

Mr Scanlon admitted that the decision to close can only work when all publicans in the area decide to close.

He said: “It would be different for city publicans who would be giving up a lot of revenues by staying shut on a Friday night, but I don’t think there would be a lot around here on Good Friday.”

Mr Scanlon said that there has been no negative feedback from customers and the response has been positive.

Mr Scanlon said: “It is going against the grain - but who knows? Other pubs around the country may follow.”

On the Facebook page of Mick Hourigan’s pub, one customer wrote: “It is great to see that old traditions matter to our country…well done to you and hopefully more will follow.”

Another wrote ‘well done Newmarket, keep up our traditions’ while one woman posted: “Well done to ye guys. Fair play. Our country needs to stand up for its traditions. Very proud that it is Newmarket leading the way - ‘we lead where others follow’.

Another wrote ‘right job - only two days off in the year - keep the tradition going’ while another customer posted “Well done, fair play to ye - hope most bars will do the same. People are not that mad for drink as publicans will tell you they are in no rush into pubs during the week anyway”.

Earlier this year, President Michael D Higgins signed into law the amendment to the Intoxicating Liquor Act that lifted the Good Friday pub ban that had been in place since 1927.

Independent senator, Gerald Craughwell was a co-sponsor of the bill that has resulted in the lifting of the ban.

He said yesterday: “The bill was all about choice, especially for publicans and I fully respect the decision by the publicans of Newmarket to stay closed on Good Friday. It is very interesting that they have come together to do this.”

Senator Craughwell said that he wasn’t approached by any vintners while the bill went through the Oireachtas.

A spokesman for the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said yesterday: “Like all other days of the year  -except Christmas Day -  publicans can choose to open or remain closed on Good Friday. The decision is entirely their own to make.

He said: “The removal of the ban on serving alcohol in licenced premises on Good Friday has received broad support from the pub sector particularly as many tourists visit Ireland during the Easter period.”

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