NEW BEGINNING Tom O’Grady is pictured outside Blouser’s Bar on James Street in Westport. Pic: Neill O’Neill
A NEW era for one of Westport’s oldest hostelries begins this week, when the iconic Blouser’s Pub on James Street reopens under the management of Tomás O’Grady. Beloved of locals and visitors alike for its olde world charm, open fire, good banter and a famous pint, the many appealing facets of Blouser’s will be retained and enhanced, though Tom as everybody knows him also plans on bringing his own twist to proceedings.
A native of Burrishoole and well-known in GAA circles, Tom is no stranger to Westport or indeed running a business in the town, having lived locally, as he says himself, for more years than he spent in Burrishoole. He formerly operated The Urchin Restaurant on Bridge Street with his family and is a trained stone mason, but has for the last seven years been employed at Multi Packaging Solutions (Berry’s) on the Carrowholly Road in Westport, a job he says he really enjoyed and much appreciated.
He has left that role to take up his lease on Blouser’s, and having worked in the pub during the last number of months it was under the stewardship of Paul Navin before it closed in September, Tom says that the lure to work for himself once again was too great to resist.
“I always wanted to go back working for myself and always knew I would,” said Tom, “so when this opportunity came up I did not hesitate to go after it. This will be my first time being a publican but I really enjoy being behind the bar and I am really looking forward to welcoming everybody to Blousers and meeting new friends there. I know there will be challenges and that this is big change, but I am looking forward to that also.”
A father of three, with his daughters all in college or abroad travelling, Tom has lived at Westport Quay for over two decades, and knows just about all there is to know about the town, but says that he is not pretending to be a ‘Covey’.
“I know the values and traditions of a place like Blousers and its history and what it means to people of the locality going back through the generations. I am keen to uphold those values and traditions, but also to bring a new dimension to the premises. I hope to welcome back the clientele of the recent past and old friends of Blouser’s, and also welcome many more new patrons who will become friends. There is much to look forward to.”
Tom will also be welcoming musicians and bands to Blousers and is looking ahead to his new concept - ‘Level 1 at Blouser’s’.
While the whole premises has received an internal makeover, recent weeks have also seen a refurbishment of the first floor bar which will now have a pool table and dart board, as well as a television showing all the main sporting acton from around the world. With minimal fuss ‘Level 1 at Blouser’s’ can be easily transformed into a party and gig venue, and Tom hopes to give aspiring musicians, bands and songwriters a chance to perform and air their talents. He is also talking to some more established acts, from outside the town and locals, who will be taking to the stage in Blouser’s over the next number of months.
Blouser’s will also be a go to venue for all manner of sporting occasions, and with the new landlord’s pedigree in that area, it is no wonder. Tom O’Grady will be recognised by many as a former Mayo footballer. Part of the Mayo All-Ireland winning Minor side of 1985, he went on to play senior football for the county, and was on the bench for Mayo’s first senior All-Ireland Final appearance since they had last won Sam Maguire in 1951, when they were defeated by Cork in the 1989 decider in Croke Park. He was a key player for Burrishoole GAA Club for years too numerous to list, and also played rugby and soccer in Westport in later times.
Most recently he was a selector for the Mayo Minor and U-21 teams from 2007 to 2012.
Blouser’s will be reopening this Friday, October 21, and all are welcome to join Tom as he begins a new chapter in the life of one of Westport’s iconic venues.