RUNNING the risk of being flippant, one dares to compare the business battle for survival during a pandemic with the tedious turmoil of potty-training a wee boy or girl.
It is hit and miss.
In the now you see me, now you don’t world of sporadic local trading, big question of an uncertain future is what SMEs will still have their ‘open for business’ flags flapping in the wind of change that will welcome an end to the pressures of Covid-19 lockdown.
Publicans and restaurateurs can justifiably claim to be among the worst hit by big daddy as the fathers and mothers assigned to guide us wield the big stick of safety with a kind of spare the rod and spoil the child attitude.
A former Mayor of our city is a proud publican and restaurateur who is fighting on two fronts.
Pat Crotty battles at a family business that celebrates 25 years of trading, 24 of them very successful, at the eat, drink and be merry High Street award-winning auditorium of wining and dining called Paris Texas.
Like his confréres in Kilkenny business, his accounts will remind him of the downward dive that local retail has taken since an invisible Coronavirus enemy attacked.
IRISH PUB OF THE YEAR
He will confirm that there can be a mere hair’s breadth between a peak and a fall.
Paris Texas was on top of the food and drinks ladder of glory when it was voted Irish Pub of the Year 2020, the highest accolade that can be bestowed on any purveyor of porter.
Paris wears that badge with pride. But, as fate would deem, along with sister vintners, it is now akin to a pub with no beer, an alehouse with a permanent holy hour, a throwback to days when pubs were by law bound to shut up shop every afternoon of every day.
It is in this weird atmosphere that the term Fighting Irish can be vital.
Pat Crotty built his main street showpiece with a combination of nous, courage, passion and business acumen.
Perfection, value for money and customer satisfaction were never classed as throwaway words.
At Paris Texas, they are rules of the house.
As negativity digs its filthy fangs, positivity is the most used tool in his bag of tricks.
BORROWED SACK OF FLOUR
“Our family businesses have stood the test of time ever since the first Crotty family came here from New Ross 150 years ago and we are going even stronger today,” Pat told kilkennypress.ie.
That was back in 1870 when a Crotty family baker came here from Wexford with little more than a handcart, borrowed a sack of flour from an in-law and so the famous Crotty’s Bakery was born.
The family had a thriving bakery in Parliament House, an elegant period building that now houses Reidy Insurance.
The next generation bought Rohan’s Bakery from Pat Rohan who like Pat Crotty and his dad, Kieran was a former Mayor of Kilkenny.
“That our family staying power has withstood the test of time is in our favour,” Pat reminded.
“We could dwell on the fact that Paris Texas was open for 28 weeks only last year and closed for 24 weeks but that would be counter-productive.
CLOSED FOR HALF A YEAR
“We were closed for half of a year when one considers that some of the ‘open time’ was very uncertain and even nerve-wracking as a shutdown order was always a mere ‘phone call away.
“In the drinks’ and food industry we have taken tough blows. Spare a thought for our so-called ‘wet pubs’ that closed on March 15 last year and have not been allowed to re-open since.
“It could be at least 18 months before their doors are open again.
“Ironically, it was the last recession, in my opinion the biggest ever challenge to Irish business that has given us confidence that we can beat the present enemy.
“When the crash came we were entirely on our own. There was no help from Government. We were home alone in our war with possible permanent closure.
“This time Government has come to our rescue. Financial help has not made things all right but has stopped things from being all wrong. During the recession many businesses went to the wall.
‘MAJOR CHALLENGE FACING US ALL’
“Sadly, during the present upheaval some may collapse too; not everyone may get over the line.
“A huge plus is that we now have the option of taking advantage of a disadvantage.
“We have to make ourselves relevant again and that will mean doing what some may not like doing, changing old habits.
“Some customers will turn up again when we re-open; others may not. A major challenge is facing us all. A fillip is that Kilkenny is a great City, a tourism magnet, we have a strong market place history and a destination that is always under the microscope of would-be investors.”
Pat who owns Paris with his wife Pamela, who he describes as the matriarch of the family, a kind shoulder to lean on, explained his reasons for his confidence.
“Progress at our High Street complex has been terrific. We now own what was once a thriving English chain-store called Woolworths.
“With my dad, an investment was made and after hard work and planning it was Open Sesame to decades of brown bread and barmbracks.”
LOCAL EMPLOYMENT SERVING OUR PEOPLE
The bakery was a means to an end by a family of master bakers, a local family giving local employment and serving our local people.
It proved to be a successful community/business partnership.
For generations, a thriving bakery enjoyed a slice of the food market in Kilkenny and into the South East.
The bar business beckoned.
Perhaps a suggestion that 60-year-old Pat had alcohol in his blood would not be an apt way to describe any transition from pans to porter?
But it has become obvious that his energy and passion for the trade is akin to his dad’s love affair with politics, baking and hurling as he won a county senior championship with Dicksboro in 1950.
Pat is a chip off of the old block. His grandfather PJ was a TD and baker, his dad had a distinguished career as a TD and businessman and now Pat continues his march into the future with a pint in one hand and a plate of Tex Mex food in the other.
A NEW SUIT AND TOP COAT
The second lockdown last October and November provided an opening for further refurbishment and improvements at Paris Texas.
Everything behind the counter of the main bar was stripped, replaced and upgraded.
Work is to continue during the present shutdown. A basement is to get a new suit and top coat as storage space is extended and a company office modernised.
Planning permission has been applied for another floor in the former garage area of the St Mary’s Lane entrance. This includes a canteen and locker room for staff.
As usual, the latest build will be an all-Kilkenny package, local builders, electrical firm and all materials purchased here.
“Helping each other is more important than ever now,” Pat continued.
“Survival is a team game and please God the vast majority of our local players will be on that winning team.
“We are looking forward to re-opening. We have good products, we are ready to rock ‘n’ roll with a new bar at the Mary’s Lane end and a new brunch menu.
‘WE ARE READY FOR STARTER’S ORDERS’
“All senior staff members are on some training course with Fáilte Ireland or Diageo. In horse racing parlance, we are ready for the off, awaiting the starter’s flag.
“As all sectors of our local community continue to obey health advice, we would love to see things going back to normal, for everybody’s sake.
“Health considerations may deem that virus precautions may have to be part of our lives for some time. The drinks’ and food industry will continue to be the fore of good health.
“We look forward to a happy and healthy future in the company of our loyal customers and friends.
“It will be thirsty work but enjoying a pint together can be part of a full recovery.”