Shane McMahon likes to lead by example. Being the General Manager of one of Galway’s most popular bars, The Front Door Bar & Restaurant, along with sister venues Sonny Molloy’s Whiskey Bar and Tigh Nora’s Gin Bar, he has opted for a very “hands-on” approach, as the spearhead of a team of over seventy people.
“The Front Door Pub is at the heart of Galway’s social scene and has been for the past 20 years”, he says, adding that some of the oldest members of the team have been in the company almost since the beginning. Shane himself has been part of the company for nearly a decade and during this time, he has aimed to keep the venue ahead of the curve, constantly bringing in new trends and working to offer every day one of the finest examples of the iconic “Galway welcome” the city is known and loved for.
He points out that something “really unusual about the bar is that it’s also home to Tigh Nora, Galway’s only dedicated Gin Bar, along with the award winning Sonny Molloy’s Irish Whiskey Bar.” He adds that the venue is “very deceptive from outside” as a first timer wouldn’t imagine how big it actually is just by looking at its modest front.
The Front Door Pub is spread over two floors and located on two different streets, it includes a Cocktail Lounge, with lunch and dinner served daily throughout the bars. Every evening there is live music or a DJ, and a late bar seven nights a week.”
While the three bars share one roof, “each has its own personality”, Shane explains: “Tigh Nora is all about the Gin loving community, with nearly two hundred different types of gin, Sonny Molloy’s is more focused on the whiskey market with nearly one hundred and twenty to choose from and our Cocktail lounge has an extensive cocktail list which has something for everyone’s taste.” He adds that ultimately, the bars’ personalities are truly the staff that work in them.
The bars have proven quite popular not just with locals and tourists, but with a few famous personalities. Shane mentions a few: “Over the years, we’re fortunate to have had many familiar faces, from sporting legends like our recent heros the Galway hurling team and Guinness Pro12 Champions Connacht, to many national and international stars like Michael Flately, Ken Doherty, Mick Galway, Reggie Corrigan (who served a few pints in Sonny Molloy’s), Gary Neville, Ricky Hatton, Peter Coonan aka Fran from Love Hate and musicians including Danny O’ Reilly from The Cornona’s who always calls in for a pint when he is down West.”
“Every Day is Busy yet Different which I Like”
Shane’s weekly routine is a crescendo of activity that begins with office work. He also uses the relatively quiet part of the week for “updating drinks menus due to the ever increasing spirit selection, meeting with industry reps, ongoing staff training and event planning with the marketing department.”
As the weekend gets closer, “it’s more hands on in the bar making sure that all elements that create the atmosphere that The Front Door Pub is known for are right.”
On the rare occasions he has some spare time, his family keeps him happily busy. He is also a big fan of embracing the outdoors life. “I enjoy running, mountain biking, walking, kayaking, golf and travel…. who doesn’t! And when I get to relax I love food, a full bodied Rioja or an Irish Whiskey – Writers Tears Red Head being a firm favourite at the moment!”
Rain or Shine, Galway Smiles
For Shane, the biggest rewards he gets are “seeing repeat custom or feedback from happy customers” although he admits that receiving industry awards also brings him great satisfaction and tells him he’s “doing something right.” Their most recent win was at the Irish Whiskey Awards 2017, where they took home a Gold Medal for Best Whiskey Bar in Connaught.
Shane feels that the City of Tribes’ main strength is “the warmth of its people” and he aims to make the venues he manages reflect that unique atmosphere he calls the “Galway Welcome.” Since The Front Door Pub is part of the city’s world-famous Latin Quarter, the area’s creativity and community spirit is strongly felt in any of the bar’s areas.
Our rainy weather doesn’t dampen our spirits, so no matter what time of year around every corner or behind every door you’ll always find a friendly face.
And just as keeping customers happy, for Shane, keeping staff’ morale high is also crucial. “I like to try and give ownership of the bars within the pub itself to the staff so that they feel they have a say and feel included. Creation of a learning environment for team members, with an opportunity to progress to management level is also important.”
On the Importance of Being Social Media Savvy
Sonny Molloy’s made headlines after sharing a photo of a very extravagant purchase by a lucky punter. After Race Week 2016, a man bought a round of Midleton Very Rare Pearl (this is the only bar in the world that sells this luxurious Irish whiskey) for himself and a friend, each drink priced at €995. Shane points out that “caused quite a stir at the time and was the talk of the country”, and such coverage was only possible thanks to clever use of social media.
Social media is a key focus for the bars, as it gives us the opportunity to showcase our personality, connect directly with our customers, gain feedback and have some fun while we’re doing it!
Shane points out that The Front Door Pub family is very active, especially on Facebook but also on Twitter and Instagram and each bar is able to showcase its unique personality through the posts. Over time, they’ve developed a strong following that allows them to connect with their customers and potential visitors, share events, menu updates and other relevant news.
On Goals and Trend Hunting
Having a confident grip on the day to day operations, the biggest challenge for Shane, is not getting too cosy on a routine that works. “The most challenging is keeping ahead of the game and watching for emerging trends”, and for that, he researches, stays active on social media and makes sure to stay informed on the latest innovations and next-big-things.
Within the drinks industry, there is always emerging trends which keeps the work both varied and challenging.
Regarding future plans, Shane plans to focus on the running of the bars to the best of his ability, “which wouldn’t be possible without the great team I have working with me”, he adds. “We’ve some exciting projects in the pipeline over the next twelve months, especially in Tigh Nora’s and Sonny Molloy’s so watch this space!”
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.