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Thursday 8 June 2023 Dublin: 13°C
# life above the shop
Does the dream of living in a pub match the reality? spoke to third generation publican Willie Doyle about what it’s like to live where he works.

FOR SOME PEOPLE the idea of running a pub and living above the shop sounds idyllic.

Spending the day talking to the regulars and the self sufficiency that comes with being your own boss sounds like an appealing way to live, and it is what many pub owners do around the towns and villages of Ireland.

However, in recent times, things have gotten harder for the lone publicans out there. Rising costs and competition from off licences have made it harder to survive. Between 2007 and 2012 there were 959 pub closures.

To find out more about the lifestyle in 2015, spoke to Willie Doyle, a third-generation publican who runs Willy Doyle’s Pub in Athy, Co Kildare.

willie doyle's pub Brian Day Brian Day

Three generations

The pub has been in his family since 1907 when Willie Doyle’s grandfather, Willy, moved back to Ireland from Brooklyn and set up shop. Today, the pub remains much the same as it was then.

“I have been working in the pub since I was 18 years of age. I took over the pub in 1983. My father had it before me. He passed away in 1985 and he was in ill health for a couple of years before he died, so I took over then,” Willie explains.

I am an only child and it was only myself and my mother so I had to get stuck in. It wasn’t easy at the time but I have no regrets.

While living so close to work might seem convenient, often it can mean working substantially more than the average week. Willie often does as many as 70 hours over 6 days.

“It is a big working week, but when you’re working for yourself you have to do that. The customer always likes to see the publican behind the counter,” he says.

Way of life

willie doyle's Brian Day Brian Day

Living above the bar are Willie and his wife, who he married three years ago.

“She came from a farming background so it was a big change for her now but she is very happy living here and has adjusted well to the pub life and that. She helps out in the bar as well,” he says.

Willie’s living quarters are located to the side and above the pub and he says that after thirty years, he has “gotten used to” any noise coming in from the bar.

A big part of maintaining the business is keeping a regular customer base. It is estimated around 95% of those that come in are regulars – and despite losing trade to off-licence alcohol – this loyal customer base keeps things ticking over.

For Willie, while the pub life suits him, it isn’t something anyone should take on without giving some serious thought to the hard work involved.

I tell you now they’d get a rude awakening. You don’t just open the doors in the morning and the people come in. There is a lot of work to be done. You have to look after your customers.

Read: See the house built by Clonmel schoolmasters to show off their love of history

Also: How much rent would you have been paying in the 1990s?

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