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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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'Only the front face of the building was left': The rebirth of the Oyster Tavern in Cork

How a premises from another century was brought back to life.

THE OYSTER TAVERN has persisted in some shape or form for the last two centuries. It’s changed hands many times over the years, and in the late sixties it even survived a fire. But by 2014, there hadn’t been an operating business in the Cork mainstay for over 20 years. When redevelopment began, it was an opportunity to infuse the building with new life.

Around the same time, Alan Clancy was looking to expand his hospitality business. His company had already seen great success in the capital with pubs like The Oak or late night bars like 37 Dawson Street, but Clancy wanted to move beyond Dublin. When he became aware of the rebuilt Oyster Tavern, he saw a chance to do something new with an old name.

“I’m always looking for opportunities around the country.” he explains. “When The Oyster Tavern was offered to me, I thought that it was a very historic place with a lot of tradition in it.

“Cork city centre has really good places in it, but it doesn’t have the same vibe as Dublin. I felt there were a few premises missing. So it meant there were more opportunities in the pub scene.”

He wasted no time getting the revamped Oyster Tavern off the ground. Clancy took over the premises in April 2017. In August that year, the tavern opened its doors once more.
When choosing the fit out, Clancy catered to two kinds of customers. The downstairs area is a modernised spin on the classic Irish bar. He wanted a place that you could pop into for a sandwich after visiting the English Market or go to for a casual drink in the evening. Meanwhile the upstairs section has more of a late night bar feel.

“We want people who go upstairs to have a ‘full night out’, where they can come have some food and then have a little dance with a DJ playing till late. I wanted it to be a very female friendly atmosphere; cocktail based, with food being an important part of it. I was looking for a nice dining and drinking experience. Something a little more sophisticated.”

The Oyster Tavern takes full advantage of its proximity to the renowned English Market, sourcing all of the ingredients for its menu from its neighbour. “It’s like our cold room or pantry. Everything is fresh in the market, so the chef can go in and pick out what he wants. The menu is very dependent on what’s current and fresh.”

When asked how Cork natives responded to this new iteration of The Oyster Tavern, Clancy admits that the reception was mixed at first. “Only the front face of the building was kept unfortunately, the old Oyster interior was no longer there. We were taking over a new build.

“People were coming back in expecting the Oyster Tavern of 25 years ago. Some would have been disappointed that it wasn’t, but we had to work with what we were handed. We were given a brand new building, so we had to put our own play on it. It’s taken a little while, but people really enjoy it now. It’s a part of Cork’s pub trail.”

Clancy predicts big things for Cork in the future, and he sees The Oyster Tavern playing a small part in driving tourists to the city center. For Clancy, it’s about bringing new experiences to the city center.

“I think there’s an awful lot of exciting things happening in Cork,” he continues. “I think it’s only the start. It’s developing into a fantastic international city. I’m glad I’m in Cork now before it does take off.”

More: ‘There’s been nothing but support’: How ‘a bunch of hipsters’ in Lucky’s regenerated a Liberties shopfront>

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