*Photos copyright Martin Connolly / The Clare Echo
THE newly-refurbished Lahinch Coast Hotel has opened its doors under new management.
The Clare Echo took a look inside the beautiful 144-room establishment, which has undergone major changes since co-owners and joint managers John and Bríd O’Meara took the reins.
Bríd and John O’Meara, previously of the popular Red Cliff Lodge in Spanish Point, opened the doors on March 8 for the first time following a rebrand and redesign of the entire ground floor, including the reception area, drawing room, lounge, bar, two restaurants and a new café (designed by the talented Paul Haffey). All that’s left now is a fresh coat of paint on the building’s exterior and the O’Mearas will be ready for the buzzy summer trade that descends on Lahinch each year.
However the O’Mearas will be putting strong emphasis on more than seasonal trade, telling The Clare Echo that great attention to detail has gone on opening their doors to the local public. With this in mind, the hotel – which traditionally closed for the long winter – will now remain open for the majority of the year going forward with offerings at the café, bar and restaurant along with the full leisure facilities. And just to make life even easier for patrons, a new entrance has been added on the main street side of the premises into the bar.
“Getting open was the difficult part but thankfully we have been really busy since we have opened, so we’re not complaining,” John begins.
“We opened full-time – historically they would have just opened weekends in March but we stay open. And at the tail-end of the season we’re going to stay open longer until after New Year’s Eve and reopen Valentine’s weekend. The season in Lahinch, with the surfing and golf, is getting longer.”
The husband and wife team are dab hands at working as a team, following on from their time together at Red Cliff Lodge and before that, Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare, where the pair worked together prior to getting married and moving to Clare. Mallow native John is working in a very hands-on managerial role while Bríd – also tasked with raising their two young children Keyleigh (8) and Paddy (5) – will also be welcoming guests alongside heading up the sales and marketing side of the business.
Speaking about what people can expect from Lahinch Coast Hotel, John continues: “We rebranded the hotel, renamed the hotel, renamed the bar. We’ve called the bar and restaurant the Aberdeen Bar and Restaurant, which is a connection with the past as the hotel was once called the Aberdeen Arms Hotel. A lot of the local people are happy with that, it’s brought a connection to the past. The big thing for us was to welcome locals, make it as much as a community hotel as possible and including a new entrance from the main street is part of that. We’re accommodating communions, Mother’s Day bookings, any family gatherings. We want it to be a hotel for the community. Thankfully it’s going well, bar food especially the last two weekends has been incredibly busy.”
With more than 40 people employed – most of whom are from the Lahinch and Miltown areas – John and Bríd expect to have over 80 employed during peak season, which will be a huge addition to the local economy. One of these employees includes Head Chef David Gouman, originally from France. Living in Ireland over 20 years, he has worked at esteemed establishments such as the Savoy, Limerick and Annacarriga Estate. That’s one of the things we’re so happy with. David creates great food and is great with staff,” says Bríd, originally from Currow, Co Kerry.
She adds that huge emphasis is going on local produce when it comes to food, but also teaming up with local tourist providers to give visitors the best North Clare experience possible. “We’re working with local surf schools, the ferry companies in Doolin, Moher Hill Farm for the kids… We’re sending business their way but it’s working to our advantage because we’re making something more attractive from a tourism point of view, give people a flavour of the area. We’re just using what we have on our doorstep and pushing the whole Wild Atlantic Way.”
With the Irish Open coming to Lahinch this July, the pair say they are ready for all the summer has in store for them, and indeed into the future.
Bríd adds, “It’s been hugely positive so far. People are saying ‘Oh my God Lahinch really needed this’. We’re getting it out there that the food is good. We’re very aware the place looks great and you have to have the service to match it and thankfully, so far so good.”