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‘A new zest’: John and Francis Brennan to open new Irish hotel

The Brennan brothers are revamping one of Ireland’s oldest hotels as a sister property to The Park in Kenmare

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Brothers in business: Francis and John Brennan

Brothers in business: Francis and John Brennan

John and Francis Brennan, photographed last summer.

John and Francis Brennan, photographed last summer.

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Brothers in business: Francis and John Brennan

“KENMARE is a wonderful town, and we look forward to adding a new zest to The Lansdowne whilst still respecting its rich history and unique location.”

So says Francis Brennan, who with his brother John has acquired the town’s Victorian-style Lansdowne Arms out of receivership for an undisclosed sum. The pair plan to rebrand and reopen the hotel when Government guidelines permit, in late spring or early summer.

The 28-bed property dates from 1790 and sits just opposite the Park Hotel Kenmare on the corner of Main and Shelbourne Streets. Rates will be in the region of €220 to €230 per night, roughly half the price of its five-star sister.

"It wasn’t on the horizon, but was too good an opportunity to say no to,” says John Brennan, who also owns nearby Dromquinna Manor with his wife, Gwen.

"It’s totally stripped out at the moment, and we're adding two new rooms,” he reveals.

"The word I’d use is ‘charming’. They are stripped back, comfortable, very stylish rooms. The style we’re going for is not OTT, but people will go in and say, ‘This is gorgeous’. It will maintain the sense of a heritage property.”
"The mood boards are done; everything has been ordered. There’s no knocking of walls or building to be done,” he adds.

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An archival image of The Lansdowne in Kenmare, Co Kerry

An archival image of The Lansdowne in Kenmare, Co Kerry

An archival image of The Lansdowne in Kenmare, Co Kerry

New signage and lighting and a spruce-up of the facade are also planned.

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"This is one of the oldest hotels in Ireland, and we look forward to filling it with new life and style which we hope will bring additional visitors to the special place in which we live,” John says.

The hotel had been operating as a three-star facility, "but to be honest the star grading doesn’t bother us”, he adds.

He pitches it as “a revitalised Irish town hotel bringing the best of Irish hospitality to a mid-price point market looking for a very personal and warm experience".

On the ground floor, a new Lansdowne Café featuring 3fe coffee will open daily from 8am for bites, and The Lansdowne Bar will serve casual, “flavoursome” local food from 12.30 daily.

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John and Francis Brennan, photographed last summer.

John and Francis Brennan, photographed last summer.

John and Francis Brennan, photographed last summer.

Meanwhile, with the Park Hotel closed since October, the Brennans have been busy steering an “enormous" restoration job, the fruits of which will be on display when hotels reopen for inter-county visitors.

The result will both wow repeat visitors and "present itself as a property of choice for a much-younger generation”, as John puts it.

While hotels are largely shuttered and surviving on Government supports, lockdowns have have also been a time to rethink and adapt businesses for a post-pandemic world, adds Margaret Ryan, Marketing Director for the Park and Dromquinna.

"I don’t think we are the only ones,” she says. “Everyone has learned a lot during Covid. They had to stop and take a deep breath, and run their properties differently.”

As for when the hotels will be able to reopen, they are looking past Easter at this point.

"How long is a piece of string? We’re guessing as much as anyone. But we feel that they won’t allow the country open for Easter, and rightly so. If they do, they might have it at Level 3, with no inter-county travel.

"That won’t work for the Park... Kerry people were great to us last year, but we wouldn’t get the occupancy: it's as simple as that.

“I think we will be open for the May Bank Holiday weekend. That’s realistic, and we'd be really happy to open for May. The worst-case scenario is the June Bank Holiday weekend. But if it is June, so be it. Remember, last year it was July.”

The Brennans have also confirmed that the next series of RTÉ's At Your Service will air in September of this year, and another series is in the pipeline for 2022.


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