General Industry

Legendary Irish Publican And Hotelier Liam O’Dwyer Passes Away

By Dave Simpson
Legendary Irish Publican And Hotelier Liam O’Dwyer Passes Away

Our thoughts are with the family of publican and hotelier Liam O’Dwyer, who passed away last week after a short illness.

Second-Generation Publican

Mr O’Dwyer was a second-generation publican, who grew up in the business. His father, Joe O’Dwyer, opened up a popular pub on Mount Street in the 1960s. Years later, Mr O’Dwyer and his brother, Des, redesigned it entirely and opened it as Howl at the Moon. This was one of the first of a new wave of bigger, bolder pubs to emerge in the city, many owned by Liam and Des.

Mr O’Dwyer was a man who thought big and put in motion a new phase of ‘super-pub’ in Dublin that coincided with the years of the Celtic Tiger. In the early 1990s, the brothers bought the old Bartley Dunne’s, on Stephen Street, and reopened it as Break for the Border, earning Mr O’Dwyer the title of ‘the man who brought line dancing to Dublin’.

The iconic Café en Seine, on Dawson Street, and Zanzibar, on Ormond Quay, followed. Between them, these large, buzzy pubs gave customers a new way to go out. Mr O’Dwyer was also quick to introduce emerging trends, including brunch, pizza ovens, cocktails, craft beer, and appealing outdoor spaces.

Known to be generous and media shy, he was admired for his quiet support of local charities and the Living Crib outside the Mansion House every Christmas, and advocacy around decent working conditions for the hospitality industry. Mr O’Dwyer was also a well-known hotelier, opening the original Trinity Capital Hotel, on Pearse Street, and Grafton Capital Hotel, on Stephen Street.


‘A True Publican’

In one of the many tributes that poured in for him across the week, one seemed to encapsulate much of what Mr O’Dwyer stood for: ‘Many pubs today are owned by banks and corporate groups. Liam O’Dwyer was a true publican who knew many of his customers’ names and looked after his staff, many of whom stayed working with him their whole lives, and multiple generations. He created places that changed the pub scene across Ireland forever.’

For the many people who knew him, he will be remembered for his decency, creativity, intelligence and good humour.

He passed away at his home, surrounded by his family.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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