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'We have everything from bikers and mods to God knows everything' - The enduring popularity of Downes' in Waterford

The pub that has everything from its own whiskey to a squash court out the back.

SITUATED ON A hill at the edge of Waterford City is Henry Downes, one of the most beloved boozers in the Déise.

Known locally as ‘Downses,’ the business was first established in 1797 and has been in the same family ever since. But it wasn’t always a pub. In fact, it started out life as a spirit merchant.

“They would have imported barrel-loads of sherries and ports, re-bottled it, labeled it up and distributed it around the local area,” explains owner John de Bromhead, who is the sixth generation to be involved in the business.

It was only in the 1960s that the owners decided to transform it into a bar. There have been refurbishments over that time, of course, but the main pub has remained largely untouched. The low lighting, carpets and vintage telephones remain intact.

Oh it's good being home.

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Having started out as a spirit merchant, Downes’ remains one of the few pubs in Ireland to bottle its own whiskey. (“Just about,” laughs de Bromhead, who notes stocks are low when I speak to him.)

The Number Nine is a local institution and the bar still serves it to customers for €4.30 a glass.

Among other things, the pub is also home to a full-sized snooker table and a squash court located out the back – De Bromhead says squash club members continue to play on the court to this day.

As a pub, Downes’ is arguably best known for being a music haunt. They regularly host gigs and vinyl nights, and have all sorts of customers coming in. (De Bromhead is quick to get a mention in for Sleeze ‘n’ Cheeze, an eighties rock tribute band who often play in the pub and make videos “taking the piss out of me”.)

“We have everything from bikers and mods to God knows everything. We do a Northern Soul night and another night we might have a heavy metal night, you know what I mean? You have all mixtures in.”

The local ❤️#accidentalwesanderson #discoverwaterford

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For a while, Downes’ was the only pub at that end of the city.

“We used to put our address as ‘Downes’, The Bermuda Triangle’ because all the pubs had disappeared,” says de Bromhead.

In recent times, however, more and more pubs have opened in the area, meaning Downes’ is no longer left on its own. For instance, it now has to contend with a new bar from Metalman Brewery, which recently opened just a few minutes away.

But that’s not to say Downes’ will be changing any time soon. De Bromhead credits the pub’s continued popularity to the fact that it has largely remained the same for the past fifty-odd years.

I think it’s because it hasn’t changed that much. It’s consistent. You can come in here for a chat without getting hugely blasted out of it and there’s plenty of room to sit.

For a €4.50 pint of plain, a quiet place to chat and the promise of a seat, look no further than Downes’.

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Amy O'Connor

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