Unsurprisingly, Co Mayo has received the most applications to convert former pubs into flats under a government scheme launched by Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien last year to provide much-needed housing.
Twelve of the 53 successful applicants in 24 localities over a 10-month period are from Mayo.
Despite the fact that a quarter of its pubs have closed since 2005, a 2018 AIB poll confirmed Mayo had the most pubs per capita in the country, with one for every 323 residents in the county.
In addition, Tom Gilligan, the founder of the Vacancy Project, is a board member of Mayo County Council and a passionate advocate for urban regeneration.
As a result, former pubs are now set to become apartment buildings in towns from Charlestown to Ballyhaunis, Westport and Ballinrobe, Swinford and Kiltimagh. A key factor is that such developments are exempt from the planning process and therefore their completion can be expedited.
Castlebar will benefit from three such projects. There was a time when every second property on the county seat’s Linenhall Street was a family-run concession building.
When local developer Kieran Staunton, who runs Castlecarra Developments with his cousin David Staunton, acquired The Hazel Inn at auction in 2017, he planned to reopen it as a traditional pub while also refurbishing the four first floor apartments. His mother Margaret had worked in several old style pubs in town over the years so for Kieran, who hails from the nearby village of Carnacon, it was a mark of respect for her and the legacy of small pubs.
“The premises traded as Flannerys until 1993 when they were purchased and substantially remodeled. The new owner renamed it The Hazel Inn when it reopened two years later,” says Kieran, adding that “it was a thriving business” until the fallout from the Celtic Tiger crash took its toll and it closed in 2007 .
“We really wanted to reopen it as a nice cozy traditional pub because my mum worked in some of the pubs on this street. But when we tried to find someone to manage it, we couldn’t find anyone. We also tried to identify opportunities to develop it for other retail businesses or services. Then Covid struck and everything was on hold,” he says.
When O’Brien unveiled the program last year, the cousins were “sad to have had to abandon their pub idea” but knew the stipulations were too attractive to ignore given a downstairs space empty and was still unused. They had already renovated the four apartments on the upper floor and rented them out to tenants.
With the ground floor refurbishment imminent, the Stauntons are now delighted to add two new apartments to the liveliness of this historic street. The former pub is just a few doors down from where one of the Lords, Lucan, built the original Linen Hall in 1790. The building is now a busy arts center.
“If we had to go through the usual planning process, it would be much more time consuming and costly and could have ended up being rejected. We could have ended with our proposal before An Bord Pleanála, and he could have [been] get a thumbs down for all sorts of reasons,” he says.
Despite the fact that the property will no longer be one of the town’s inns, its traditional facade will be retained as the design dictates and the building will now be called The Hazel Inn Apartments.
https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/housing-planning/2023/03/07/one-time-pubs-in-mayo-towns-set-to-become-homes/ Former pubs in Mayo cities become apartment buildings – The Irish Times