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'It’s not uncommon to see three generations sitting at a table': The magic of Geoff's in Waterford

How the iconic pub came to be.

“YOU HEAR VARIOUS things from old customers who come in and would have been here in the 1970s,” says Anthony Mullane, bar manager of Geoff’s in Waterford. “One guy in here came up and said, ‘There’s still a whiff of bohemia in here.’”

Well, that’s one way of putting it.

Since 1907, there has been a pub standing in the middle of John Street in Waterford, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. It originally opened under Willie Power and operated as a public house and grocers.

He ran the pub until 1957 when his son Michael took over. For the next two decades, Michael and his wife Eleanor ran the pub before eventually passing the reins on to their son Geoff. They continued to remain involved in the pub for many years. 

“Both of them used to still come into town every morning to ensure that we were still open on time and that everything was okay,” recalls Mullane. (Michael passed away several years ago while Eleanor still regularly stops in to make sure things are ticking along.)

In 1977, Geoff Power took over from his father and began to implement his vision for the pub.

“That’s when it started becoming the iconic Geoff’s that it is today,” says Mullane. 

He had ideas for what he wanted for the future of the pub. He set about transforming the interiors and creating a certain ambience with old timber furniture, offbeat wall art, and vintage signage.

“He embraced the quirky and the eccentric in his style,” says Mullane.“He found his own interior and built upon it.” 

“I’m still inspired years later by the interior and its uniqueness – that it’s not a formatted Harvey Norman style interior where every chair looks the same. I still get a buzz off the quirkiness of the place.”

Power also set about leaving his musical imprint on the pub. When it opened in 1977, there was a turntable behind the bar where they would play the most exciting albums of the day.

“Music was a very big part of what he wanted out of the business – to offer music of the time. I know from talking to him over the years that the first album that ever went on when they opened as Geoff’s was JJ Cale’s Naturally.”

Over the last forty years, the pub has evolved and expanded hugely.

In 1995, they took over the premises next door and opened a kitchen. Prior to that, their food offering had been limited to doorstop sandwiches. With the opening of the kitchen and the launch of the menu, Geoff’s started introduce what Mullane describes as a “café-bar style culture”. 

“Years ago, we were doing bits and pieces, but now it’s an integral part of the business,” he says.

There are iconic dishes on the menu and they’re on our menu 18 years. You’ll get people getting in their car and traveling to Waterford to have the crab bruschetta in Geoff’s. 

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Over the years, the pub has continued to transform and grow. Following the smoking ban, it opened an outdoor beer garden, now a beloved feature of the pub. Last year, it launched its terrace to coincide with the relaunch of the Apple Market. 

It can sometimes feel as though there are multiple rooms and areas within the one pub, he says. 

But it doesn’t feel like a superbar. It still has its snugs and nooks and crannies.

 One thing the pub refuses to budge on, however? Televisions. 

“As long as Geoff has his name over the front door, there won’t be any tellies coming along and that suits many people,” says Mullane. “It’s a quiet respite for people who don’t want to go to a bar where sport is being blasted at them or Sky News is on a big telly in the corner.”

Asked for his favorite feature of the pub, Mullane says it’s the diverse clientele and its enduring popularity across multiple generations that he loves most. 

“The amount of introductions and people I’ve met over the years has just been phenomenal and the people I’ve been put in touch with,” he says. “You end up connecting with so many different environments and new people, and that’s been a really enjoyable aspect of the job.”

“It was never an ageist place. From eighteen to whatever age, we’re always welcoming here. It was never built for a certain demographic, it was built for the people.”

It’s not uncommon to see three generations sitting at a table here. It’s a really nice thing. The youth know that it’s okay and if they think it’s uncool for their parents to be in their pub, their parents can remind them that it was their pub once upon a time.

More: ‘We never knew it’d be such a big deal’: How O’Connell’s in Meath ended up in an iconic Christmas ad>

More: ‘It’s kept the street alive in tough times’: How Tom Barry’s became a local institution in Cork>

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Amy O'Connor

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