Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star
AS I’m writing this, the weather is glorious in County Waterford. It may have changed since but here’s hoping. All too soon it’ll be another memory. Autumn will kick in and the dreaded return to school beckons for some. Sometimes expectations in Ireland can be too high. We’re not Spain, despite occasionally getting even higher temperatures here much to the annoyance of anyone who’s booked holidays abroad. Our climate in the South East traditionally lends itself to some cracking days, but we can’t expect it all the time. That said, we are far more geared up for summertime fun now than we’ve ever been.
I can remember going to Cardiff back in the 90’s and loving the outdoor tables and chairs set up in what’s known as the Café Quarter in the city. Rugby fans from Waterford will know it well. The wide footpath stretched out to include at least two premises as I recall, possibly more now and what an absolute treat it was to sit outside and enjoy a pint or three. Into the bargain there was also a happy hour between 5 and 7 week nights with pints £1 each. Heaven.
‘If we’ve learned anything it’s surely that we all rely on each other a heck of a lot more than we might even care to admit’
Regardless of the cheap prices, the thing that really got me was how little, if any, of this type of hospitality was available in our own city and county of Waterford. Thankfully, that has changed and if Covid-19 has done any good at all at least we now have some fantastic outdoor dining areas across the Déise. It’s been roughly a year since I moved from the city to Dungarvan. Looking back to my teens when I would first have been going out regularly for a few drinks, I can recall having to sit inside pubs on warm days if you ventured out on a Friday afternoon for example. Here we were in a gorgeous seaside town overlooking the quays in some instances, yet you could barely find a bench or outside seat.
Fast forward to 2022 and it’s lovely to report things are different. Recently after my radio show, which I broadcast from our studios adjacent to Dungarvan Shopping Centre, I left WLR and headed a few steps over to Grattan Square to meet my sister and a friend of mine. Two others joined us sitting outside on a blistering hot Saturday afternoon. It was fabulous and for that short spell you could have been in The Algarve or Marbella. To think this was non-existent in the formative years. How fantastic it would have been to be nursing a cold one outside a bar and watching the world go by.
Indeed I would say one of my greatest pleasures over the years was hitting town in Waterford around 3 or 4 on a Friday afternoon, getting a bevy and sitting in the window of Geoff’s Bar. Later, grabbing a berth outside was even better for people spotting. Around Spraoi time, particularly so. A bird’s eye view for sure. You’d never know who you’d meet passing by. The comfy seating area there now is a credit to them. Indeed the roof on the Apple Market has transformed the whole area. These days a beer garden is always a much sought-after location as is the rooftop garden.
You’d always envy those fortunate enough to have bagged a table in Dunmore East or Tramore whenever you found yourself there for an afternoon or evening maybe. Sometimes they’re as rare as hen’s teeth.
As the outdoor offering has improved, I’m hearing more and more that there is a belief that it’s all becoming a bit too expensive. We are in the middle of an inflation crisis so maybe the fears are real. It also depends on the establishment. That came home to me starkly a couple of weeks ago when my brother-in-law informed me how much he paid for a pint in one hostelry. A good 30 cents more would you believe on the same drink I had somewhere else, and that venue was by no means the cheapest. Going for a ‘few pints’ is no longer an inexpensive pleasure. If there is a downside to going out, it’s obviously the cost. Business is business naturally and people have to make a living in a post lockdown world, but as always it would appear some feel their prices are justified. The arguments about overheads and such are taken on board by most punters, but there are rumours of blatant gouging. Some tourists will stand it as they are just passing through, but locals won’t wear it and will find another watering hole, restaurant or whatever. I know some who just prefer having a few scoops at home. The tourist trade is all very well, but the locals are the foundation in most places. If, God forbid, we get a lousy summer weather wise next year, they’ll be looking to the locals to keep the show on the road and some of them may just not be there.
We have waited what seems like an eternity to get back to ‘normal’. We’ve all been hit in different ways and have felt the brunt of the pandemic. If we’ve learned anything it’s surely that we all rely on each other a heck of a lot more than we might even care to admit. Our communities might well be small clusters here and there around the county but we’re all Waterford folk at the end of the day. Let’s all of us try and support each other. It’s great to have that balance of enjoying a beer from the off licence at home while still loving a trip to the pub too. I think we can all help each other in business. Let’s just keep some civic spirit and plain old decency in mind. Tourists come and go, locals are forever. Let’s not lose sight of our own.
By Timmy Ryan
Broadcaster and Liquorist