Bargain Buys: Own a Pub in Ireland

The traditional pub is synonymous with Ireland. Every crossroads had one. Most town squares had many. They were a place where the community gathered to tell stories or play music. To wake the dead and welcome the born. To celebrate victories and drown sorrows. The pub was at the heart of Irish society.

The Irish pub today is on the floor. Crushed. Drink-driving laws are strict, breaking them frowned upon. Professional floor slippers drove up insurance costs. Tastes broadened to include more ethnic food and wine. Young people drink more at home. With a few exceptions, pubs need to do excellent food to have a business. The Irish pubs business model was seriously challenged. And, that was before COVID-19. Social distancing and the lockdown are the final nail in the coffin. Many pubs closed with the lockdown. And, will never reopen.

Most pubs in Ireland have accommodation above. Typically the publican and family would live above the premises. Already pubs are being fire sold. Kitchen equipment, the bar, the living quarters upstairs…all going under the hammer or offered for sale. Many are in convenient locations on the main streets of town, or just off main arteries.

But, who would want a building like this?

Families want homes in a community with a gardens and kids nearby, or space and privacy in the countryside. There’s little demand for new pubs. Retail in general is decimated…there isn’t a line of clothes boutiques looking to transform pubs to retail space in small town Ireland. In essence these are now a category of real estate without a use. And, with that comes no demand to buy or rent. At least, no demand until the price hits the floor.

Today you can buy a pub with four to six bedrooms upstairs and seperate living quarters from $150,000 to $250,000—a lot less than the price of buying a regular home in these areas.

Take this beauty for example.

It’s located on the Ring of Beara, along the coastline of Bantry Bay in West Cork. This is an area of pristine natural beauty.

The rugged and beautiful coastline of West Cork is part of the Wild Atlantic Way…

It’s an extremely popular tourist locale.

I love finding overlooked value. For example, a home with a big garden that can be sold off in lots to recoup the purchase price giving a free home. But there’s no point buying real estate that has no use.

The key to this play is to figure out how to repurpose this real estate into something useful. I’ve spent the last three weeks traveling the length and breadth of Ireland identifying overlooked real estate we could add huge value to by repurposing and converting into a high demand use.

So…what could we repurpose a pub like this into? What’s a growth and high-margin market we can serve with this overlooked and deflated real estate?

How about converting into a place that would be rented on AirBnB groups. Accommodation upstairs for 12 or more people. Downstairs there’s plenty of space. A group might rent it for a company retreat. Friends on a hiking trip. A family reunion. A party. Turn the drink-driving rules in your favor and make a party destination where you stay overnight.

It could be rented as a whole, but also the rooms individually on Air BnB or to digital nomads. The bar area would be an attractive place to work. Help yourself to coffee, or even a beer…just like the office space Google created before the “go to the office” model broke.

As we dug a bit into this idea, my research team and I found we weren’t the first to think of it. Pubs are already available on Airbnb as destinations…

For instance, take this pub rental in County Tipperary. It’s booked up for months…

One of my team, Paul O’Sullivan, was out scouting last weekend and found a pub for sale in County Roscommon for €150,000. It’s got five bedrooms.

Here’s a photo Paul took of the Croghan Bar in County Roscommon.
Here’s the listing.

But the West Cork pub stands out for me…given all the space, the stunningly beautiful surroundings and strong tourism in the area. Now, I haven’t done any due diligence on the building as far as paperwork or structure is concerned, but it’s worth a closer look.

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