Lydon’s great outdoors

Features

FAMILY TIES Brothers John (left) and Stephen Lydon are pictured in the new outdoor dining area at Lydon’s in Cong last week. Pic: Karen Cox

One family-run business in South Mayo has spared no effort to reopen this week

Cong
Mike Finnerty

SOME people know them as the ‘no problem Lydons’ — because nothing is ever an issue — and it doesn’t take long to see why.
Last week, on a beautiful summer’s day in Cong, brothers Stephen and John Lydon were as relaxed as ever as they counted down the days to the re-opening of their bar and restaurant in the centre of the village.
Sitting in the warm sunshine of their spacious outdoor dining area, which although empty looked inviting, ready and waiting for customers to take their seats, Stephen acknowledged they were ‘very lucky’ to be able to open their doors again.
But he admitted he was ‘a little nervous’ about the prospect at the same time.
“I can’t wait,” smiled John. “It will be great.”
The brothers are the first to admit that there was ‘no big plan’ to develop an outdoor area. A large paved area at the back of their premises gave them ‘a footprint’ and everything else just fell into place as they went along. The retractable canopy, the perspex roof, the tables, chairs, and widescreen TV.
With everything framed by a neat hedgerow and funky fencing.
“There was just kind of an ongoing thought in my head,” explains Stephen.
“We had no plan written down. We’ve just rolled into ‘the plan’ and found ourselves saying, ‘Jeez, that looks nice’. I suppose we’ve invested around €40,000 in this area, overall.”
You can’t help but wonder if Irish people will take to eating and drinking outside, especially in a country where the weather changes by the hour.
“If you have the facilities, a little bit of background music, a TV where people can watch a match, you’re on a winner,” says Stephen.
“They want to be outside when they’re having the craic. Plus, there are certain people and certain age groups that probably would be happier to be outside.”
Along with Stephen’s wife, Olga, and their sister, Deirdre, the Lydon family have spared no effort in turning their business — which encompasses a bed and breakfast, a beautiful restaurant and a cosy bar — into a local attraction that is as popular as it is well-known.
Frank and Carmel Lydon started the ball rolling when they opened a guesthouse in 1975, and also ran a butcher’s shop before moving into the pub trade in 1995. “We grew up with it, it’s not something that we sit down and think about too much,” says Stephen. “You get a great kick out of having nice people in who have a nice time.
“The people of Cong and the surrounding areas have been so good to us as well over the years,” adds John. “We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without their support.”
The last year has brought many changes for the Lydons.
John has become a father to baby Odhran; Stephen and Olga have never spent more time with their daughters, Aoibheann and Anna; while Deirdre has been busy with her three children too.
But with the business now about to open seven days a week again, people like head chef, Carlos (‘a mighty man’), and all of their dozen staff are braced for busy days and busy nights.
If things get really hectic when things re-open fully later this summer, there could be as many as 200 customers to be wined and dined at any given time.
“It’s a learning curve really because you’ll have to see how many tables to serve out here at a given time,” explains Stephen. “It’s all well and good putting all these people in but you have to be very careful that you don’t overpower the kitchen.
“So we’ll be structuring the bookings list on the busy days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for now. But in July and August probably all the time because it’s going to be so busy.
“The first sitting will start at 12.30pm, the next around 3pm, and we’ll go again at 8.15pm to 8.30pm for the last sitting. The main thing is not to put too much pressure on the kitchen.”
As for everyone being off the premises at 11.30pm, John reckons it was ‘a great thing’.
“Staff get home at a decent time and punters are not dying of a hangover the next day,” he smiled. “Everyone is going to be fresher.”
Like they always say, ‘no problem’.