Vacancy Watch: The Drake Inn in Finglas

Letters have fallen off the sign bearing the name of the former premises at 59–60 Main Street in Finglas.

The pub, formerly The Drake Inn, has been empty in the centre of Finglas town since 2009, several locals said. It’s a large, imposing building, which once had seven separate entrances judging by the shuttered doors.

Sitting at the junction of Main Street and Jamestown Road, all the shutters, painted black, are down. Broken windows face onto Main Street. The paint is flaking. Weeds grow from the gutters.

It was once a popular north side venue, home to some of the biggest stars of the day.

Performers such as Dickie Rock, Sonny Knowles and the famous showbands, says Philomena Byrne-Murphy of Finglas Tidy Towns.

“There was great entertainment there. It was a cabaret venue and all the famous singers used to go there,” she says.

Byrne-Murphy says that the local residents have been fighting hard for it to be used again.

A History

The Drake Inn was once owned by Paddy McKiernan, who bought the premises in 1960s, according to a Glasnevin history group.

“They extended it out,” says Byrne-Murphy. “It was originally a country pub back when Finglas was a country village.”

One of these extensions was a purpose-built cabaret venue with 650 seats.

The pub was then sold by the McKiernan family in 2002 to Larkan Catering Ltd, run by Seamus and Canice Keogh.

Around that time, Steve Connolly, a fishmonger at Connolly’s Fish, which faces the vacant pub, would pop in for food.

It’d still be a busy spot, but “there would be bouncers on the door from half ten in the morning”, says Connolly

On 16 July 2012, a receiver was appointed to Larkan Catering Company Ltd on behalf of AIB, the holders of “the mortgage and charge dated 22nd April 2002”.

A judgment mortgage, where a creditor seeks to register a judgement against a debtor’s property, had been made against the company on 26 June 2009.

A couple months later, the pub closed down. It hasn’t opened since.

According to Hospitality Ireland, The Drake Inn was sold for €610,000 at an Allsops Auction in 2014. It’s not clear who bought it.

But records from the Property Registry Authority of Ireland show that The Drake Inn was owned by Martina Investments Ltd for a brief period before being sold to “Sarl Mush”, a Swiss real-estate company in 2017.

Fighting for The Drake

The front of the pub is in an awful state, says Byrne-Murphy.

It’s been constantly cited by the Tidy Towns Competition Committee as an eyesore in the village, she says. “They remark on it every year asking what are we doing to try and highlight it.”

Last year, the Finglas Tidy Towns Committee had a protest outside The Drake Inn, says Murphy-Byrne.

They asked people to sign a petition to send to the Swiss embassy, looking for them to intervene after efforts to contact the current owners were unsuccessful.

“They did reply and say that you’d have to go back to your council,” says Murphy-Byrne.

So that’s what they did.

Earlier this year, Keith Connolly, a Fianna Fáil candidate for Dublin City Council in the upcoming local elections, started a petition to try to get the council to acquire the premises with a compulsory purchase order.

Last month, the site was added to the council’s Vacant Sites Register.

The register gives the owner’s address as c/o Mr John Walsh, of Avenue Edouard Rod 28, 1007 Lausanne, Switzerland. Walsh hasn’t responded to an email query about the inn.

How easy it would be to reopen is unclear.

“There’s an issue with it as well,” says Connolly, the fishmonger. “The toilets in it were actually all cemented so there’s drainage issues and there are massive issues with the roof as well. It’s a big job to do now.”

For Byrne-Murphy, she’s hoping that its inclusion on the Vacant Sites Register was the first step in the right direction.

“We’re praying something will be done with it,” says Byrne-Murphy, “because we are trying hard to enhance the village.”

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Sean Finnan: Sean Finnan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach him at sfinnan@dublininquirer.com.

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