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Ireland's oldest pub Grace Neill's to reopen in in Donaghadee

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 07/07/2015

Grace Neill’s pub in Donaghadee will reopen on Friday
Grace Neill’s pub in Donaghadee will reopen on Friday

Grace Neill's pub is to reopen as a new landlord steps forward to safeguard the future of Ireland's oldest hostelry.

The famous Co Down tavern, which has served beer and spirits to smugglers, pirates, sailors and other imbibers for over 400 years, will be open for business in Donaghadee on Friday afternoon once more.

The renowned hostelry - which reputedly served Russian Czar Peter the Great and Robinson Crusoe novelist Danield Defoe a tipple or two - has become a tourist destination for visitors over the years.

Pub and restaurant owner Paul O'Kane has taken over its lease with a view to buying the 17th century public house in two years.

He has also promised to make sure that Neill's remains a top venue on the tourist map.

Along with wife and business parter Mandy, he also runs the Stables and the Groomsport Inn in the neighbouring seaside town.

The historic pub and restaurant has been closed since early April with its owners citing a licensing issue as the problem at the time.

That was weeks after the bar mysteriously and quickly closed for a short period of time in March - that time issues with a "gas line problem" were cited.

But in four days' time the pub at the heart of social life in the coastal town will be open for business with most of the former bar staff re-employed.

However, it will be late July or early August before the bar's highly rated restaurant is back up and running, as the O'Kanes intend to extensively modernise its kitchen.

Mr O'Kane told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday: "We are opening up the snug bar and the lounge from Friday afternoon and will have a full weekend of evening entertainment and music organised for Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, just as our customers expect.

"I needed to get it open, it's a fantastic place and we have dined and drank at it ourselves over the years.

"The people of Donaghadee deserve to have Grace Neill's open again.

"The bar and restaurant has always been a major tourist draw to Donaghadee and it's been very badly missed since its closure.

"I want to bring tourists back into the town."

When the famous pub opened its doors in 1611, it was known as the Kings Arm's, a name it held for over 300 years. It got its eponymous name after Grace Neill, a well-known resident of the seaside town, was given the bar as a wedding present by her father in keeping with traditions at the time.

Grace was a regular fixture at the bar until she died at the age of 98 in 1918.

The pub was then renamed in her honour and has carried her name ever since.

Mrs O'Kane has refreshed the interior of the lounge but has worked hard to retain the historic nature of the snug bar.

Renowned for the quality of its cuisine, Grace Neill's featured in the Michelin Eating Out In Pubs guide 2010 and the O'Kanes are currently recruiting for a senior chef and team.

Belfast Telegraph

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