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June 2019
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2005-09-05 My nightmare with Ireland's grumpiest publican

From outside the quaint country pub I could hear muffled slurred small-talk. When I entered, there was a stunned silence. Had I been in the Wild West, the saloon doors would have swung with an eery creak; tumbleweed would have blown past.


Three old capped males - `The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' - sat slouched on bar-stools. "Hello", I smiled. The Bad and The Ugly ignored me. The Good grunted. A female followed me in, and received a relatively enthusiastic welcome. I say "female" as she didn't qualify as a lady, or even a woman. She staggered to her stool. She had clearly had a headstart elsewhere, perhaps at home with the cooking sherry, or more likely, judging by her complexion and gait, with the toilet duck. The inane inebriated chitchat increased in volume. I had arranged to meet a friend in this appealingly-named old-world drinking establishment. My friend arrived slightly late, and received the same silent reception. He wasn't a true local. Neither was I.


The tumbleweed blew past again. Between us, we bought one pint of shandy, two still waters, and a bag of Tayto Cheese `n Onion (the waters were mine). "Thank you, keep the change," I smiled. The grumpy old landlord pushed my change back at me, refusing my tip.


Feeling distinctly unwelcome, we decided to go and see the renovation-work on my friend's cottage. I left my car in the pub car park. When we returned, the electric gates were locked, my car was inside. It was 11.45pm, and I could see the landlord behind the bar, clearing up. I tapped on the window; the light went off. An upstairs window was open, so I once again attempted to attract attention. The landlord stared out of the upstairs window at me, closed it authoritatively, drew the curtains, and switched out the light. The message could hardly have been clearer - my car was there for the night.


The following day, at lunchtime, I ordered a taxi to transport me the 10 miles back to the inhospitable hostelry. The landlord's car was behind the locked gate, so was mine, and sadly so was the only door to the pub. I noticed through the window that the landlord was behind the bar once again. I tapped on the window, and waved. I was ignored.


I called Directory Enquiries: there was no listing for the pub, or for the owner. The friendly taxi-driver told me the owner's name, but obviously for legal reasons and to preserve his reputation I cannot use his name. For the purposes of the article, we shall call him Mick, because that is the grumpy old fecker's name. I dropped in to the village Post Office, told them my sob-story, saying how I needed my car urgently, asking if they had his number.


They didn't, but did have some other stories to add to Mick's by now seriously soiled reputation. In desperation, I called at another local pub landlord's house. He phoned Mick, pretending to be my friend, saying that I needed my car to drive to Belfast.


Mick gave my taxi-driver - whose clock was still ticking away - two minutes to get back to retrieve my Renault. As I opened my car door, I got the full brunt of an abusive tirade from the pub doorway, saying that he was sick of tourists and hill-walkers using his carpark as a public car park.


But I was a customer, I might have been a tourist. I had bought four drinks and a bag of Tayto. As I drove away, I rolled down the passenger-window, and said that I would actively discourage people from frequenting his pub. Mick's pub is in a tourist area - what sort of message is he sending out to tourists? We hear about Rip-off Republic, about falling standards in customer care, but surely we ought to at least hold on to our trademark `Céad Míle Faílte'?


Are some of these public houses no longer as welcoming to their public? I realise that grumpy ol' Mick is in the minority, but there are other pubs which, though smoke-free, are far from friendly. Shouldn't pubs like this be blacklisted (Mick's certainly should), or even closed? They are jeopardising our tourist industry, and our reputation of being a land of 100,000 welcomes.