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Saturday 25 May 2019

Michelin star restaurateur to close for Galway Races after 'drunk, abusive' customers 'vomit and p**s on doorstep'

Restaurateur JP McMahon
Restaurateur JP McMahon
JP McMahon, chef and co-owner of Aniar. Photo: Julia Dunin
Aniar restaurant in Galway city. Photo: Julia Dunin
Aniar restaurant in Galway city. Photo: Julia Dunin

Meadhbh McGrath

Restaurateur JP McMahon has said he will close his three Galway restaurants next year after suffering abusive and disrespectful behaviour from drunk customers returning from the races.

“From speaking to other restauranteurs, I think the festival is more and more about drinking in the last few years,” he told, noting that the difference between the Galway races and last week’s arts festival is “a million miles”.

He took to Twitter on Friday to complain about their behaviour, writing: “Abusive customers. Drunk and disrespectful. People pissing and vomiting on door. I'll close the restaurants for #GalwayRaces next year.”

Mr McMahon co-owns the Michelin-starred restaurant Aniar on Lower Dominick Street, as well as Cava Bodega and EAT Gastropub, with his wife Drigín Gaffey.

“Unfortunately on Ladies Day it just turns into an absolute drunken mess, and you get people wandering around the streets. Aniar has a big window and we get people bouncing off the window in the evening and other people just pissing on the door,” he said.

“It happened before in Cava where someone actually vomited on the doorstep. I know it’s good for the city and you have a load of people in but it seems to be crazy.”

He added that although race attendees flock to the city each evening, they are more interested in cheap meals and as a result, “it’s not a great week for us in the restaurant”.

“I’ve been here since 1999 and other years have been better, there used to be a lot of people around spending a lot of money but it seems to have become a younger crowd who are (drinking on the street).”

As well as antisocial behaviour on the streets, he said his staff have had to put up with abuse from customers inside the restaurants.

“Customers are not turning up or many are turning up really drunk, and then when you try ringing people to get their credit cards, one of our staff was abused and was told to f*** off, that they wouldn’t give him his credit card,” he said.

Aniar restaurant in Galway city. Photo: Julia Dunin
Aniar restaurant in Galway city. Photo: Julia Dunin

“Cava is a lot busier and the staff there are having all sorts of problems with people drinking.

“Last year, we had to throw someone out for being too drunk. We haven’t had to do that yet but we still have tonight and tomorrow night to get through.”

Mr McMahon noted that the worst behaviour tends to follow the day meetings, as attendees return to the city at around 6pm “very, very drunk”.

“On occasion over the last couple of years we’ve had to ask people to leave because they were literally obnoxious,” he said.

“Last night we had to go out and tell people to get out because they were urinating outside the door.”

After four nights of drunk behaviour from guests and passers-by outside his restaurants, Mr McMahon said he plans to close in future to escape the chaos that comes with the races.

Aniar restaurant in Galway city. Photo: Julia Dunin
Aniar restaurant in Galway city. Photo: Julia Dunin

“Next year it would be better off just closing and giving everybody a week’s holidays,” Mr McMahon said.

“Cava still has an ok trade, but for Aniar it doesn’t add anything to it. We’re getting a lot of people who are just coming in because the restaurant is there, and it’s the wrong crowd for Aniar.

“I’d rather feed happy food tourists in November than trying to deal with people who are just looking for a cheap meal and not to experience a good meal.”

He added: “August is usually a good month for us so we’ll just try to write this week off.”

With two days left before the races come to an end, Mr McMahon is apprehensive of further no-shows and abuse.

“We lost eight people last night who didn’t turn up and wouldn’t even answer their phone. It’s frustrating,” he said.

“If you have a load of no-shows and there are people in the restaurant when it should have been a full restaurant, it does affect the ambience of the space as well.

“It’s not nice if you have drunken people in the restaurant and falling around the place. They’re falling asleep as well, I remember that happened when someone fell asleep at the table. Anyway, we’ll soldier on.”

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