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WHERE HE BELONGS Well-known Castlebar publican Mick Byrne is pictured inside his famous hostelry on Castlebar's Main Street last week. Pic: Michael McLaughlin


Castlebar

Ger Flanagan

ONE of Mayo’s best-known and respected publicans, Mick Byrne, fears that he may not be able to open the doors of his pub on Main Street, Castlebar for the rest of this year.
The affable Byrne has been behind the bar in his popular pub for 47 years, and admitted he is left ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ at the recent government announcement that sees Phase Four pushed back until at least the end of August.
“I figured all along that it [opening last Monday] was not going to happen,” the Castlebar Mitchels clubman told The Mayo News. “They were talking of opening the schools first, so we were put down the pecking order. I’m disappointed – it’s the second time it’s been put back – but I’m not surprised.
“My biggest fear now is that we won’t open at all this year. It’s sad and disappointing because everybody has been geared up. So it’s been a real kick in the teeth for us.”
Mick Byrne’s pub is the oldest family run pub in Castlebar and he has been left frustrated that it has been one rule for some, and one for others.
“It’s been well documented; what’s the difference between the pub doing food and the pub not doing food?” he asked. “I think the fact that there’s 3,500 pubs open and another 3,500 still closed, that’s the disappointing thing about it.
“Publicans are well aware of the dangers and the necessary guidelines to implement and adhere too. If they opened up all the pubs six or seven weeks at the same time we would not be in this situation and everyone would be adhering to the guidelines. You open them all, or you open none.”

‘Top class’
Mick was quick to recognise the ‘top class’ job done by authorities with the pandemic to date and even went as far as admitting that in the long run it ‘could be beneficial’.
But he points out that the rise in cases coming from house parties may only grow if the pubs remain closed and that publicans should be trusted to open their premises, for the sake of staff, customers and the future of the pub itself.
“You have to remember the customers and the staff in the rural pubs,” he said. “Plus the smoking ban in 2004 and the new drink driving laws were two big hits for the pubs.
“Like those you learn and you’re prepared to implement the rules and regulations, but the fact we’re not given a chance is the sad thing about it. You’re giving the people no chance either; the old people that might come for one or two pints at night time.
“The rural pub is the social part of the town in most villages. They go in for the chat, for the craic and the banter and you miss the daily social interactions, but that is all gone and it might never come back.”
Byrne says he has ‘no doubt’ that publicans, and customers, will be able to implement and follow the rules if the chance was presented to them. While he also feels that regional opening will not work.
He says that the bills are still coming in, despite the doors being closed, and that the future of the rural pub in Mayo is looking bleak.
“I have so many great memories in the pub trade and I really hope to have them again,” he said. “However, I think a lot of pubs will close. There’s a few I know already that have closed.
“I don’t want my pub to close and I don’t want to see any other pub close. It’s part of our culture, part of who we are and part of the tourism trade. I was brought up in one for the past 63 years and I hope to get another 20 or 30 years out of it.
“I think pubs will suffer and there is a threat that we might never open again, and that would be detrimental, but I’m determined to never let that happen in my life.”