Interview with Noel Anderson Managing Director of Lemon & Duke and Vice Chair of the Licensed Vintners Association
This month we get an insight into Noel Anderson, managing director of two high profile bars in Dublin, Lemon & Duke and Bridge 1859. He tells us how he got into the pub trade and how he is navigating through this difficult year.
Tell us about your entry into the world of pub life?
When I finished my Leaving Cert I went and worked as a waiter in Spain, I was seventeen and loved it, that was my first taste for this business. I returned home and went to college. I hated it, it was like being back at school. I dropped out and became an apprentice bar man in the Blue Heaven, Rathfarnham when I was just eighteen years old. I got promoted to manger of Revels in Rathfarnham which was also under the ownership of Tom O Malley.
When I was twenty-two, I took a lease on a pub in Rathfarnham and I describe that part of my life as Harvard, Yale and Oxford, the university of life. As it turned out that venture didn’t work out for various reasons and at the age of twenty-four I took the reins as GM of the Abberley Court Hotel for the Flynn’s and continued working for them. Subsequently I was promoted to group GM/ Operations Manager which included over seeing operations of the Abberley Court Hotel, Rodeo Joes and The Church Bar on Mary Street.
When the last downturn hit I decided to change career and became a business representative for Richmond Marketing I did that for a year really enjoyed it.
At the ripe old age of twenty-seven, I took the lease of the old Grafton Lounge and extended the premises over time. I then built the business up and bought The Bridge 1859 with Rob Kearney, Dave Kearney, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
The Grafton Lounge brand was getting tired which spurred me on to create the Lemon and Duke brand which lead to signing a long term lease. The lads and I own the freehold in The Bridge 1859 and we also bought the restaurant Bella Cuba beside us which allowed us to extended The Bridge 1859 creating the space we had envisioned.
As Vice Chairman of the LVA your role has never been greater or more prominent. How are you personally finding these new challenges?
The year that I am having as the Vice Chairman of the LVA and the year I foresee having next year, will probably be the two of the most important years of my life. It has been extremely challenging, extremely difficult and at times extremely stressful. The reality is that with the position I am in, I can try and help as many publicans as possible and that has been a huge motivational factor for me.
To realise that you can have an impact on peoples businesses and their livelihoods and their survival, that keeps me very focused. Our Chairman Ronan Lynch and I share the same focus and we work together very closely. This is a voluntary role and I have invested more time and energy into this role than any other I have ever held. I feel very passionate about helping as many people that are affected by this terrible time as possible. I hope that in five to ten years time that we can look back on this and feel that we made a real difference and saved as many as we could.
What was your impression on the recent #SupportNotSympathy Campaign?
This campaign was probably one of the best things the LVA has ever done. It was the brainchild of Willie Aherne in The Palace Bar and David Chawke in The Bank Bar. They approached Ronan and I with the idea. We brought what we knew was a great idea to the board of the LVA and got it approved by The Vintners Federation of Ireland.
Within a week we had the biggest social media campaign the pubs in Ireland have ever been part of. We effectively took over social media for the day. I would hope to think that we sent a clear message to government that the hospitality industry, particularly the pubs in Ireland are a much loved, powerful force that deserve to be heard and that we will not go down without a fight.
On the day of the campaign over 10,000 individual accounts retweeted #SupportNotSympathy across Twitter and Facebook. We trended in Ireland and Europe all day long. I was number one in Ireland from 11 o’clock in the morning . I was subsequently followed up by a minister and two of my local TDS. So they heard the campaign which was the whole point. I also think this can form a blue print of how the wider hospitality industry can come together and be seen as a united voice. I would like to think that the 3500 pubs that remain closed for one day at least realised that they weren’t on their own.
Talking specifically about Wet Bars, what would be your advice to Government and the publicans themselves to ensure the survival of as many of these businesses as possible?
This week coming is a vital week for those wet publicans the reality is that if the government don’t give support I would encourage every publican in the country to open under the current guidelines for and serve what ever food possible otherwise I can’t see when they are going get open. If the government continues to treat them differently and keep them shut they need to paid to be kept shut. Everyone has a right to earn a living and that has been taken away from those 3500 publicans. What’s going on is not right.
Operating very popular food bars The Bridge 1859 and Lemon & Duke, are you finding that the current Covid_19 restrictions are allowing bars to break even?
It is an extremely challenging trading environment. The wage subsidy scheme has been a huge help, not having rates has been a huge help, but every case in the county is different. Suburbs appear to be doing the best from what I have heard. With the guidelines consulate changing and wage subsidy getting reduced there is no doubt we are in for the fight of our lives for the next two years.
What is your outlook for the remaining months of 2020 especially as this is a trade that relies heavily in the winter months on Christmas trade?
I would be very worried for what the winter could hold. I think we are going into a major battle with kids back in schools and case numbers rising. Not to be a grinch but it’s hard to see Christmas being any thing other than abnormal this year. Hopefully a vaccine can be found and 2021 can be cheerier!!!!
The life of a publican is an active one, how do you strike that all important work life/home life balance?
When I first started in the Bath Babe I was doing 70 to 80 hours a week every week. The reality now is I’m not as hands-on behind the counter as I was. I still work a lot on the floor and I can be seen in both venues daily. If I had kept that original pace up I probably would still not be married. I also have two little girls aged 8 and 10. I try to hang out with the girls as much as I can. A Monday to Friday Job was never in my tea leaves.