An institution within the town, the closure of the Shannon Knights after 49 years marks the end of an era.
On St Patrick’s Day 1972, the Shannon Knights first opened its doors, for almost five decades it held a prominent role within the locality operating as a bistro, off-licence, bar and nightclub. The closure of the Evolution Nightclub due to COVID-19 was announced on March 12th 2020 while a planned reopening of the bar in July did not occur.
Doors closed in the off-licence for the last time on Sunday bringing the curtain down on the history on a distinct landmark in Shannon which served as one of the most prominent social venues in the county.
At its peak more than 75 people were employed at the Shannon Knights, this figure reduced when it entered receivership in September 2016. A multi-million euro revamp was undertaken towards the end of the Celtic Tiger, accounts from 2015 detailed that bank loans of €3.3m had to be repaid.
Victor McSweeney spent 28 years working in the Shannon Knights, serving as a General Manager and a Director of the company. The Crecora native noted the support given by the community to the Knights but also the financial backing the venue gave to local organisations. “Aidan Quish was my employer, he owned the company fully, he was an incredible man within the community, he was from Kilmallock, the Knights was not only a great employer, a great place for people to meet, drink and have food but Aidan was fierce good to people and all the sporting clubs like St Senan’s Rugby, Park Rangers, Newtown FC, darts, pool competitions, Tidy Towns, athletic club, anybody who came to the Knights or Aidan for sponsorship were always given something. It is a pity that it faltered and that they weren’t able to save it and keep the jobs, it is a sad day when you think about it”.
Coming from an “easy background of hotels”, Victor admitted he was awe-struck with the “rough and tumble vibrant pub business” when he began working there in 1987. “The Knights was a centre for people to meet, you had so many diverse nationalities and people all over Ireland nearly every different county was represented there with a strong Northern influx that came down during the 1960s, it was very diverse, coming from a hospitality and hotel background, I was awe-struck in the beginning because it was a totally different employment that I had been used to. As the years went on which happened fairly fast, you got to know fierce friendly people in the community and I grew into that, a lot of the staff would have met their husband or wives there, a lot of relationships started in the Knights and their children came back to work there during breaks from colleges, it was a very localised community”. The Ballyvaughan resident acknowledged the contribution of all staff including the long-serving Margaret Webb.
For close to a decade, Dave McKee was part of the bar staff at the Knights. His links go back even further with his late father Mike working as a DJ there with his uncle Steve serving as the original DJ of the Knights and his grandmother Theresa was the first ticket seller at the doors. “I was pretty much raised in there in the entire building when my father was going to work years ago, when he was setting things up for the nightclub I would be going in with him and just waiting for him to get things done, I got to know loads of the old bar staff, some of whom I still worked with. It was a nice family orientated place,” Dave recalled.
McKee said the Knights was “a great social hub” which is home to many memories for the people of Shannon and surrounding areas. “It was disappointing not overly saddening because we’ve been out of work for a year now, we’ve all got used to it so disappointing is the feeling,” he noted of the closure.
Both McKee and McSweeney like many people in Shannon are hopeful the Knights will return under new owners in the future.