This time on BRC I have two guests who both work in their family business. One in hospitality, and one in jewelry. How does jewelry fit into a show about whiskey and spirits? Easy, forth-generation jeweler Broderick Hicks, has been crafting unique, customizable bourbon barrel rings for the past three years. As the creative force behind the family-owned business, Broderick has managed to combine his love of good bourbon with his passion for fine jewelry. My second guest is Conor Linnan. Conner had a lifetime of experience in the hospitality industry, but it was the unexpected collaboration of his brothers that allowed his family's legacy to reach new heights. With big plans for the future, the Linnan family is poised to become the face of a new era of Irish hospitality. How far will they go? Find out on this episode of Barrel Room Chronicles.
My guests on this episode are Broderick Hicks and Conor Linnan.
Broderick Hicks is a fourth-generation jeweler who has been crafting unique, customizable bourbon barrel rings for the past three years. As the creative force behind the family-owned business, Broderick has managed to combine his love of good bourbon with his passion for fine jewelry. Sourcing their bourbon barrel wood from Kentucky, Broderick and his team have created over 25 different designs that can be customized to suit individual tastes. With thousands of rings sold, Broderick's innovative jewelry has gained popularity among both bourbon enthusiasts and those looking for something truly special to wear. Since 1948, BW James Jewelers/ Bourbon Barrel Rings has served thousands of customers with their engagement rings, wedding band, and jewelry needs. We are fourth generation family owned jeweler. "Just because it's whiskey, it doesn't make it a bourbon." Each bourbon barrel rings is one of a kind just like your special someone who will wear it. The barrels used in making the rings are hand cut in heart of bourbon country Kentucky. They are made from genuine aged reclaimed bourbon barrels from Kentucky. Like Broderick's rings? Use code barrelroom and get $30 off your order of $199 or more at Bourbon Barrel Rings by BW James.
From a young age, Conor Linnan was immersed in the world of hospitality, nurtured by his family's passion and dedication to the industry. His mother, a hotel management graduate, ran a successful bar in Galway, Ireland, that his architect grandfather built for her. Growing up above the bar, Conor's childhood was filled with unforgettable moments and invaluable lessons in customer service and community building. Although he briefly explored careers in construction and pharmaceutical sales while living in the United States, his heart always belonged to the hospitality industry. During the podcast, Linnan describes how he and his brothers acquired various bars in Dublin, starting with Dawson Lounge, the smallest pub in the city. They continued to purchase bars during the recession, when many banks were not lending, making the most of their opportunities. Their approach was driven by the desire to create distinct, memorable spaces for their patrons, drawing on their family background and experiences in the hospitality industry.
In this episode, you'll:
1. Discover how unique bourbon barrel rings and customizable jewelry can make powerful personal statements.
2. Connect with memorable personal stories through the use of historic wood sourcing in creative projects.
3. Uncover the secrets of expanding a bar business and fostering inclusive community spaces in Ireland.
4. Learn valuable insights on overcoming the challenges faced by the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Embrace the importance of authenticity and quality in building successful bars and businesses.
Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and can be seen or heard on Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Breaker, Public Radio and wherever you enjoy to your favorite podcasts.
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Well, hello. Good evening, good afternoon. And whatever time it is you're watching or listening to the show today. Today we have on a very special guest, Broderick Hicks, who is part of the bourbon barrel rings by WB. James jewelers is here to talk to us about these fantastic rings.
I keep seeing them online, and I really want to buy, like, all of them. So, broderick, welcome. Thank you so much for having me. Carrie, I'm excited to be on your show. So, broderick, tell me you have not so much of a whiskey journey, which is what I usually ask people about, but you can tell me about the whiskey journey of the rings.
But before we get into the whiskey journey of the rings, tell me a little bit about your family and the background of the company, because I've already noticed that you and I have a similar background with our family, which I'll get to in just a moment. But go ahead and tell me a little bit about the family history and the jewelry. Absolutely. So my family has been in the jewelry business since 1948. Right after the conclusion of world war II, my great grandfather actually started our business, and his first jewelry store was not actually a store.
It was a single showcase in a drug store. So very small, very humble roots, but very grateful to have continued our family owned business for over four generations now. That's fantastic. So I wanted to tell you a little bit about my family. I'm not sure what year it was, but probably around the same time my grandfather started his jewelry business.
And he came over as, like, a six year old from france, and he started this jewelry business down here in Hollywood, actually. And then he ended up opening up his own store up in the san francisco bay area. So my family moved up there, and then, ironically, they had me, and I came back down here. Oh, very cool. That's amazing.
Yeah. And I had hoped that my uncle would have taken over the business, but he wasn't interested, so they sold it. Very cool. Thank you for sharing. That awesome.
But I digress. This is about your jewelry stuff. So let's get more into. How did you guys start doing these barrel rings out of the bourbon barrels and then which bourbon barrels? Who do you partner with to get your barrels?
Sure. Absolutely. So I always had an interest in good bourbon. I'm not maybe not a drink bourbon every type of day kind of person, which I'm sure a lot of your listeners are and props to you. That's what these are for.
But I do enjoy a good bourbon on a special occasion, and particularly kentucky bourbon. I really enjoy a lot of kentucky bourbons. And so one thing that inspired me is we make fine jewelry. But what is a way we can maybe tie in a love for bourbon or an appreciation for bourbon? Whether you're an everyday drinker or a casual drinker or you just like the concept in general of tying in a piece of bourbon barrel that we can actually take and then cut that into a ring that you can wear on your hand every day.
So kind of what inspired me to do that was a lot of wedding bands out there are very traditional and which is not a problem. We saw a lot of very traditional yellow gold, white gold, and you have, of course, your black or gray metals out there. But I wanted to do something that had some not only character to it, but some historical relevance and also kind of touched a personal topic that's very close to some folks, especially maybe on this podcast where bourbon is an important part of their everyday lives. Yeah. So were you the brainchild then behind this out of your family members to do the bourbon barrel ring?
Yes, I was. And one thing that's really cool that we do is we source all of our bourbon barrel wood from Lexington, Kentucky. Okay. And just for copyright reasons, I can't say exactly which manufacturers are made with the rings, but I can tell you that there are some very popular, loved kentucky bourbon barrel brands. And I was just really fascinated.
I've actually had the opportunity to drive all throughout Kentucky and to be able to experience some of these different bourbon manufacturers and distilleries. And it's just an incredible experience. And I was like, what is one way we can incorporate our jewelry into that Kentucky bourbon barrel trail experience that many people love? So when did you start making these rings? How long has that been in process?
We've been making them for about three years now. How many different designs do you have with the rings and how is it being received by the public? Yeah, so we currently have about 25 to 30 different bourbon barrel designs, and you could pretty much turn that into hundreds of different designs because we do offer customization to our rings. Wow. What's really cool about that is I've even had some people that have, let's say they have a local distillery that is very important to them or like a favorite bourbon.
One thing we can do is we actually can take a piece of bourbon barrel from a bourbon barrel that's your favorite distillery and actually make that in a ring. Because we do almost all of our custom production is here in the United States. We have the ability to offer that customization, which is really cool. That's great. And where is your main offices located in the US.
Yeah, we're actually based out of Tennessee, but we manufacture a lot of our rings out in salt lake city, Utah. Okay, great. When you first put the wooden rings out, were people like, what is this? Were they like, oh, yeah. What was the initial reaction when you first put them out.
I mean, honestly, even in the store, everyone was excited to see something a little bit different. But the biggest hurrah moment for most people is when they're wearing these rings, going out to eat, going out to see a movie, they get so many compliments, like, what is that you're wearing on your hand? And it's a story. And that's what I love about it, is you could say, hey, this was from an age Kentucky bourbon barrel of probably one of my favorite bourbon brands. And how cool is that to be able to tell that story when you're out and about?
Now, if somebody, say, wanted to do something ultra personalized and they brought you a barrel from, like, Ireland or Scotland, would you be able to use their wood and make their ring out of their piece? Absolutely, yes. We've actually done that before, and I can't say the name out of privacy reasons, but there is a cousin of a famous guitarist in California. Now, the guitarist passed away, but his cousin wanted to incorporate a guitar string with actually red wine barrel from their winery in California okay. Which was really cool because we were able to incorporate their family's history and his love of music into the ring.
Itself, which was really cool. And do you know what string it was? Was it the E string, the G string? I don't know that.
He sent us one, and he's like, Just use this one. So I was like, okay, cool. Do you remember if it was the kind the the thicker ones that kind of like roll or was it like a really thin one? It was a thicker one. Okay, so one of the topper, then the lower.
Yes. Cool. Probably. Probably. So I'm more of a more of a piano guy when it comes to music, but I'll take your word for it on that.
Are you allowed to tell the process on how these are made? I mean, do you have to bend the wood or fire the wood, or do you just actually drill the size of the ring straight down and go from there? Yeah, so all of them are are handmade. So usually it's it's a two step process. We go through the manufacturing of the ring component itself, which is the metal part, which is typically like a tungsten or a cobalt or a black ceramic.
And then what we do is we have our jewelers take a bourbon barrel sob and actually cut a piece out of it that will be enough to encircle the entire ring. And that way you don't have too many slits over it, and then we just kind of heat it up. And then we use a very resilient waterproof coating to help protect the wood because you don't want to leave it on there without any protection or seam. Of course, on it. Plus, it makes it shiny and pretty.
Exactly. So how thick do you think is that piece of wood that they shave off, like it's super thin, like you could bend it really easily? Yeah. So it's not super thick because it does have to go in the inlay channel, but it's not super thin. Kind of that happy medium there.
Okay. But it's really cool because you really can see each bourbon barrel ring has it, or each ring has its own characteristics because each barrel is very unique and different and a lot of them. Of course, it's typical for a bourbon barrel to be made of white oak. But even within the white oak family, there's so many different variations in the wood which make each ring completely unique. That's very cool.
So how many bourbon barrel rings do you think you've sold in the last three years? Definitely in the thousands. Good. And what's the price range for these bad boys? They actually start at 199 and go up to about 999.
Oh, wow. Okay. And do you ever add any jewels to them, like diamonds or rubies? We have, yes.
Typically most people just kind of prefer more of the classic look, but we can customize it for we actually do a lot of matching sets, believe it or not. We have a lot of couples that if they're wanting something different for a traditional engagement set or even sometimes I've had couples that have a diamond ring, but they just want something more casual or something that they can wear on vacation or travel. And what we'll do is a matching bourbon barrel ring set, and it's really a cool concept, for sure. So how many women do you think you've sold to compared to men? I would say probably, I would say 80% to 20% ratio.
But we've actually had a lot of demand for women's bourbon bell rings, which is awesome. There's definitely a lot of people out there that are wanting something a little bit different, and we're glad to be able to offer both men and ladies styles on our bourbon barrel rings. Very cool. And now here's a question. With a ring like that, is it sizable later if they lose weight or gain weight or for whatever reason?
Yes. So the rings, because they're made of wood and usually a tougher, stronger metal, you can't necessarily size them. But what's really cool is we do sell a lifetime care plan. If you buy the care plan, it actually covers the cost to remake it in your size. If you damage it or break it or have to have a size in the future.
Okay, and would you be able to use any of the same parts from the first ring or no? Yeah, we would try our best, depending on how many sizes you have to go up. Okay. What's your most popular way of selling them? Do you sell a lot online or you sell most of them in a shop?
And then how many shops do you have around the country. We do a little bit of both. So we have two retail stores in Tennessee, but we honestly ship to pretty much everywhere, even all the way alaska, Hawaii, west coast, east coast, all the way down to Texas. And we've been a few times to Canada, the United Kingdom, pretty much everywhere. So we love to speak our message to bourbon lovers pretty much anywhere in the whole country.
That's awesome. And do you make any other wooden based jewelry with the company? We do, yes. We also have our rings with history collection and basically we have things from the sister ship of the titanic wood. We have World War II rifle inlays.
I have part of the decking of the USS constitution, which is our first sailing ship in the world. Benjamin Franklin's home piece of that wood, pretty much any historical wood, even down to stadium chairs for baseball stadiums, red. Sox, how do you obtain that? I mean, that must be really hard to get from some of these places. Yeah, we work really hard to kind of scavenge the whole country to find these very collectors that have these pieces.
And just even with some of our wood that's historical from certain battleships and stuff, we actually have been able to find family members of people who served on that battleship. Wow. Hey, when this ship was being scrapped, we saved some of that wood. And hey, I'd be happy to provide you with some to purchase. Yeah, one of my custom rings is actually from Gettysburg.
Oh, nice. It's the witness tree, which was right next to the Gettysburg battlefield. Oh, wow. And the tree is still standing so they just took some piece off the tree. Wow.
Yeah, that's cool. So if somebody had their own custom wood and wanted to make a custom ring, how would they reach out and have you do that? Yeah, absolutely. You can visit us on any of our websites, bwjamesjewellers.com or bourbonville rings.com and just reach out to our chat or help buttons and just say you have interest in making a custom ring. And we've even taken wood from people's backyard.
They have a famous tree or something from their grandfather. As long as it's not like rotted wood or water damage. There are certain types we can't use, but we've done a lot of very cool projects with things that mean a lot to people. That's very cool. Now I want to get one.
So what is the starting price for custom made? Custom made rings will start around 699 and up. Okay. And how far up have you gone? Depending on the only thing that would make the price go higher.
If you add like, let's say you do it in gold or white gold or yellow gold and those I would say if it's solid gold all the way around with a wooden lay, those are about 2000. So I would say that probably that would be the highest if you did. That cool. Very cool. Okay, well, this has been fascinating.
I'm loving hearing all about these things. So what is your goal for the next five years, and do you plan to do other types of jewelry, like, I don't know, watches or bracelets or earrings? Absolutely. We hope to expand our product offering, and actually, one thing we just released this last year is bourbon barrel cuff bracelets. Oh, wow.
And they're very popular. Actually, I was at a Bridal show, and this lady came up to our booth, and she was like, I saw this bracelet on her, and I was like, that looks so nice. And it was one of our bourbon barrel cuff bracelets, and we do them in. It's a stainless steel, so they hold up pretty good. And then we put a layer of bourbon barrel.
So it's very classic, and it's really a nice look. It can be casual or dressy. It goes with pretty much anything. And we have it in four different sizes all the way from small to excel. Okay.
And it's more popular with ladies, but I actually have some gentlemen that have bought it too, and it looks really cool on them as well. I bet. I'm going to have to take a look at that. All right, well, this has been fantastic. I love it.
I can't wait to see more. What's the favorite piece that you've had made for you for yourself? Has there been a favorite one that you just like? This is it. This is the best one?
Yes. So as far as our wood rings, probably my favorite would be my wedding band. Nice. And the reason why it's actually made of teak wood from the USS California battleship okay. Which sunk in Pearl Harbor, and it was actually one of our only ships to actually be sink, and then they reused it later in the war so it didn't stay down there forever.
It's partially sunk, and they fixed it, and it's Burmese teak from the decking of that battleship. And I just really like it because I'm a big history buff and World War II history I'm personally a big fan of and really cool. To have that symbolism of those people who fought and served in our country on that battleship is really cool and special. That's very cool. So how do you go about getting these historic pieces of wood?
Do you have to call historical societies? Yeah. So I actually found a gentleman who served on that battleship and was able to get in touch with him, and thankfully, during the scuttling of the ship in the 1970s, he saved a lot of the deckwood, and I was able to get it from him, which is really cool. That's nice. Does your wife have a matching she doesn't.
I would like to get her one, but that's an idea for the near future. Got it. Okay, Roderick, thank you so much. This has been very enlightening, and I can't wait to share your story and your jewelry story with my listeners and my viewers, and I hope to have you on again and we can catch up on new products as they come out. Absolutely.
Thank you so much for having me. And the one thing I will say in conclusion is I love how our rings can really there's a lot of people that bourbon is very important to their life and their lifestyle and just their everyday lives. And it's really a cool way where you can represent that passion for bourbon and wear it every day around you and be able to share that with your friends and family. So we're happy to be a part of that. That's great.
All right, well, thank you so much. Stick around for the next segment, broderick. Don't hang up. We'll be right back. Don't touch that device.
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Well, good afternoon, Connor. How are you? Good now. And yourself? Good.
So we met down in Dingle for the Dingle bash. We did indeed. And that was a great, great time. Great time. Don't remember too much.
I had one day. I don't remember as much. I was told it was great. Yes, it was great. Weather was so so, but I loved it because it's always hot where we are.
So it was nice getting out to the to get to wear a scarf and jacket. Yeah, Dingle is amazing. It's one of my favorite places in the country by far. I'm glad we started our trip there, actually. So I was very intrigued by what you do when we met in Dingle.
You are a publican, not a Republican. He's a publican. And you own how many bars? My brothers and I, we own and operate six bars currently, and we're looking to expand out in the next 18 months to maybe three more freehold properties. Wow.
And all of them are in Dublin. Except for one, one in Galway city and five operating Dublin 1st Reel Entertainment at the moment. Great. And which bar are we in today? We are now in Jack Nealands on Capel Street.
This is an iconic corner bar on Capel Street, which we just announced. The coolest street in the world, or the coolest street in Europe. So they pedestrianized the street? It's the longest pedestrianized street in Dublin. Oh, wow.
You can see it's still a road. It's a testing, a beta test first to see whether they'll keep it pedestrianized. Got it. But we are nicely placed on the corner. We have about 60 outdoor seats as well.
So, yeah, it's a great spot, iconic spot, protected structure. And I don't know if you or if the camera can see, but the beautiful ceilings and the moldings. Yeah. And then it's a three story high plus a seller. Yes.
And you guys are renovating soon to do what up? We just got planning permission, so we were trying for the last couple of years to get planning permission. So we have these nice horseshoe bars, but we want to take them back to the original bars as a straight bar, back to the wall, so we have greater occupancy on both floors. Get the fireplaces, the stack repaired and get the fireplaces back in operation. And then on the first floor, we're going to open a restaurant and cocktail bar.
And the goal is unlike restaurants, because I think some of the best restaurants, our best spaces in Dublin are restaurants and they have amazing fit outs, but it's like, oh, your dinner is done. It's 10:00, get out. Yeah. And this could be a wine bar, this could be a cocktail bar, this could be something amazing that maybe the city isn't offering. So we want to do live music.
Keep it going. So half the seats upstairs are going to be high, half low. That gives that nice mix, that nice feel of like, two different levels. But also when people are finished eating, their friends can come and join them and they will be standing beside the table at eye level, not standing over them. Right.
So you can kind of fill the standing room and space then. That's great. So that the host is replaced by maybe a DJ or a musician and just kind of keep that going. And when do you propose to start the project and when you think we're going to start? Hopefully in January.
We got planning permission, we have a designer, pretty much finalized everything and we are ordering furniture now. Hopefully tomorrow I'm going to order the four level dumb waiter. So that was what held us up last year, was the dumb waiter. So it's very difficult for the stairs upstairs with customers having to go to the top floor, but the staff having to come down with food on a narrow staircase. So we will have a dumb waiter going across all four levels, which of course, will help with all the stock and all that.
And then we want to bring the vibe that we have in our Stony Batter property, which is more of a I dare say people say more of a hipster area, but we serve a lot of dogs and everything. So there might be 120 customers on a Monday night and there could be 30 dogs on the property. Oh, that's great. But we have a lot of those customers that come down here as well. And it's the bigger gay area of the city.
And this street leading on to the next street up here is the gay quarter of Dublin. Okay. So we have the iconic Panty bar across the road. I noticed the rainbows, massive overspill. He was on the COVID of Forbes.
Oh, wow. So we have massive overspill for that. And we just want to be inclusive of everyone. Our whole goal is to be a social space for the community in all our properties great. And try to be inclusive of everyone, including the four legged friends.
Well, great. So I usually start out each episode or each interview with each guest about their whiskey journey or their spirits journey. But you are I want to hear about your publican journey. Did you grow up as a child going, I'm going to own a bunch of bars? Yes.
Okay, let's hear it. So I guess my grandfather was an architect. He actually was on the regional hospital, Galway and a couple of big projects, and he had a lot of land on the outskirts of Galway City on the west coast of Ireland. And my mother went into the car of great soder and hotel management program. She ended up working in Switzerland and then when she came back, she was going to move to the States to work in a bar.
And my grandfather was like, no, if you want a bar, I'll build you a bar. So he built a bar on the side of the house. Wow. And she got to run it. And actually for two years, we're the highest Guinness sales in the country.
Oh, wow. So she ran that bar for ages. She ended up going to New York anyway, which is actually where I was born. So technically an American. Technically an American as well.
Jewel citizen. So she did go to New York for years. And yes, we lived above the bar because the house was beside us. Now we developed it. Instead of being a house in a bar, we developed upstairs, built a steakhouse restaurant on the side, and there's been different iterations throughout the years, but we grew up above the bar.
Wow. So when I was, like, doing my homework and a football team would come in without telling us, I'd have to go down and clear tables and explain to the teacher the next day why my homework wasn't done. Oh, that's funny. But we kind of grew up in the bar with the customers being our friends and regulars and you could always just go downstairs to watch a game or it's one those iconic you don't really have them in America, but this is an iconic country bar in Ireland. So you walk in, we have the bar and the lounge.
So all the men would go to the bar, all the women would go to the lounge. Historically now it's more it's divided by which sports game is on which TV. But we have a huge car park, the kids would be kicking around the football outside and then all the families tree generations would come in on Sunday for the big roast to be like your Christmas dinner. And that's every Sunday. Wow.
It's famous in Ireland. Like the Calvary food is big, especially in the countryside and especially on a Sunday. Wow. So I just grew up in that environment. And we always wanted to as kids, we always said we'd love to have a few bars because we saw amazing bars in other countries and other cities and they were doing different things and we wanted to cocktail bar, this bar, that bar.
And our parents would never do it because they had everything they wanted. Something that worked, but was always in the back of our mind to do it. And when the opportunity came up, we didn't even think about it, we just did it. So you stayed in America for a while, went to a few cities, lived there, yeah. What were you doing in America?
Were you researching or just I did hotel management in 1st Reel Entertainment. So I did Switzerland, Zurich for a year, came back two more years in college, then I did a year, was the overnight manager in the Boston iconic arch boston Harbor Hotel in Boston. Nice. And then I came back to Ireland and we were trying to take over two or three coffee shops and news agents, corner stores, sorry for Murphy Morgans. And a chain came in and kind of took them.
So I went back to go away for the guts of a year and worked for my parents. And everything I wanted to do, I wanted to open an off license, open a shop in the middle, change the till system, do they start doing cocktails, start doing this? And they just said no to everything. So I just got frustrated and said I don't want to work in hospitality, I just want to do something else. So I was going to go to New York but I went to San Francisco to visit one of my best friends before I moved to New York.
Okay. And he is an engineer and he was working in construction, so he brought me around. He was getting paid very good money, like well over six figures and we were in our early twenty s at the time. So he just said look, I'll teach you how to read. Blueprints.
They're all Irish developers out here. We'll get you a job. And a couple of weeks later, I got a job. Wow. And it was funny.
I went to an apartment complex that had just opened, and one of the girls was the real estate agent. So she said, Stick on a jacket, pretend like you're interested in property and come over and we'll get you free drink and I'll bring you out in the carrot afterwards. And I was sleeping on her couch. I said that's great. We turned up, and my friend turned up and he went to the free bar in this apartment complex and asked for a drink.
And this older Irish woman heard his accent and she said, oh, where are you from? He goes, oh, I'm from Galway. She goes, what do you do in Galway? And he's like, oh, I'm a developer and I'm building this, that and the other. And she was like, sure you are.
He said, he's building a bar? And she goes, oh, I know someone who owns a bar. She knows my parents. Oh, wow. And he started laughing, going, Their son's over there.
So I got introduced to her husband, and it turns out her husband is a friend of my. So back in the 70s, when my dad lived in New York, there was no work in Ireland. Everyone was leaving. They went to New York or London. And my dad's friend goes, My cousin's coming out.
Can you stay with her for a couple of weeks? So he gets settled. So he ended up staying with my dad for a year on the couch. Wow. And my dad supported him financially, and he ended up getting a job on the Alaskan pipeline.
And now he owns a huge company. He does the roadworks and pipelines for like 40 different cities in California. And he goes, this is my building. I'm selling it. It's a side project for me.
But what are you doing here? And I said, Well, I'm interviewing with my friends and a few different companies to get into construction, into the management side of it, obviously, because I have no construction skills, but management is management. So, yeah, he said, Come into us Monday. On Tuesday, I was driving a new pickup truck with a laptop and a phone, and I was pretending to read Blueprints and I was on site, and that's why I stayed in California and kind of why probably I changed industry. So I did construction for about a year and a half.
And then the same girl's roommate worked for pharmaceuticals. So I interviewed for about ten months and I got into a pharmaceutical company. So I went into pharmaceutical sales in San Francisco and I was with them for about seven years. And I kind of moved up to different business development, lead computer expert and whatnot for the district and stuff I worked in. And then when I got laid off, I got paid for three months and I couldn't accept another job or I wouldn't get my redundancy check right.
So I came home and my brother was like, it's just after the recession. It's the prime time. Banks aren't lending. We all have cash, we have savings. There's no competition.
We can start buying bars because if we went up pre recession, we'd be laughed at. No one was selling because they make money, right. Even if you offer them good money, they wouldn't sell because why would they bother? But a lot of people got wiped out in the recession. A lot of bars had gone into the possession of receivers and banks, so there was a lot of stock and the banks weren't lending.
So that's when we bought our first bar. Which bar was that? Which was the Dawson Lounge on Dawson Street. It's the smallest pub in Dublin. Oh, yes, we're going there later.
Can't wait to see. Bought that and my first year to there, I ended up working five, six days a week, seven days a week, and just worked flat out. Made as much money as we could. And then we moved on to our second bar, which was John Fallons. It's a beautiful, iconic old man bar, rated in the top two pints in the city.
Okay. I think it opened in 1619. Oh, wow. It actually burned down in a whiskey distillery fire in 1910. Oh, yes, I've heard about this fire.
Rebuilt the second one. That was.
Famous fire was 1890, so this was 20 years later. So the fire you're referring to is probably the one where they were drinking whiskey out of the boots. Yeah. This is about 20 years later, another distillery fire in the area. I'm not sure which one.
You probably find out better than I would. And it was renovated and at the time, Ireland was still part of the British Empire. So the bar was on lease to the Earl of Mead. So I actually have the signatures. I think it's Daniel O'Toole and Richard Stompen that took the lease from the Earl of Mead.
So everything in that neighborhood was owned by the Earl and you had to lease from them. Wow. You couldn't own private property at the time. So we have that lease. I'm trying to get it fixed and put it up on the wall once we do a bit of a renovation.
And we just went from there. We just decided, I think we went a bar a year up until COVID. Oh, wow. So I just kept looking for something else that we could bring something to. So these are bars in good, decent neighborhoods, up and coming neighborhoods, or just great locations with good footfall that maybe didn't have food, didn't have accommodation, didn't have beer gardens, didn't have a good choice.
Maybe kind of an aged bar, aged profile, weren't doing the trade they could be doing or should be doing. And we knew we could add to it. And how many brothers do you have? Two brothers, one older, one younger. And all three of you are the owners?
Yeah. Do all three of you work in the bars? My younger brother runs our family home in Baron Galway and then I run the five 1st Reel Entertainment bars in Dublin. And then my older brother also a partner, but he works for a property asset company, separate. Okay, so he's the hands off guys.
And you guys the hands he's the hands off. But he's a qualified tax accountant. Oh, so he does all the tax advisor. There you go. Does all the tax the account does all the financial advising.
He does all the gross stuff. Yes. Nice. But he's definitely pivotal with our expansion because my brother and I can get stuck in the day to day trying to just get through the day and fight fires and people don't turn up to work. And you're doing all this and he's always there to take us out so we can have a meeting about the big picture and where we're going.
So it's always nice to have that ying yang. He pulls us back out of our fishbowl where we're trying to fix everything and make everything work and it's like, come on, let's buy another one. So you have your eye on two or three more? Right now we hope to go for two or three more. Yeah, because we slow down there for COVID, we were sale agreed on another larger property just actually just down the road here, but we stepped away from it, not knowing where the market was going during COVID Right.
And how did COVID affect your I mean, I'm assuming you had to close down everything massively. Like there was, I can't remember now, like six openings and lockdowns openings and closings or something like that. Like they closed the strait for three months and then we could open but we could only open for outdoor for 15 people. And then we could open indoor, but with social distancing with half our occupancy. And then some of our places have big beer gardens.
The car park shipped to 1000 people and you're like, I can only have 15 customers and I have to serve food. So I have to bring a chef in to make food because I said, like a sandwich or toasty doesn't count. What? So I have to bring a chef in to make food for 15 customers? That actually worked.
Really? So we did reservation systems and we had people booked in in 1 hour, 45 minutes slots. 15 people all day long. It worked enough to keep you afloat. The state did have some aid packages as well.
They had was it tax warehousing? So you didn't have to pay your sales tax? We have to pay it. It's just warehoused. So there's just this big check that is due at some point.
So there was things like that, but you didn't have to do it straight away. So at least most businesses didn't go to the wall. That's great. So it kept the industry afloat. But we did fight with them a lot because I don't think the government wanted bars to open but they wanted restaurants to open.
In Ireland most bars are restaurants, right? We kind of had this breakfast lurch and dinner like last December. They decided you had to close at 08:00 p.m. And given their other decisions prior to that, for the year and a half hours that, you know, it was directed at the pub trade, but the pubs all stayed open to late, but all the restaurants closed. All the fine dining late night restaurants closed because they didn't have a second dinner service.
Right. Didn't weren't able to flip it, which means they couldn't afford to stay open. But you knew that time is just so arbitrary and meant nothing that it was them thinking they were being smart because at the start they were like, oh, pubs can't open, okay, right. They're all the same, okay, you have to have a kitchen, you have to do food, that's fine. So some pubs couldn't open and then just kept bringing that out to kind of stop the pubs from because a.
Lot of people go to pubs and if you get too many people first. Person social distancing and whatnot. But yeah, just a lot of arbitrary rules. They were very strict. I think we had the longest lockdown in the world.
I feel like Los Angeles was forever. But you could be right. We were pretty much locked down within some sort of restriction for two years as an only outdoor or indoor but only half capacity or closing at 08:00 P.m. Because we're an island and there was a big stick. So they came out with the vaccine passport and they're like, well, you can't go for a drink if you don't have a bad vaccine, if you haven't been vaccinated.
And also you can't leave the country so you can't go on your son holiday to Spain or whatever. So we had like the highest uptake in vaccine. That's great, that's good. So what is your favorite aspect or characteristic of each of the bars you own? So most people don't know that they're all owned by us.
Do you have a company name? We don't define ourselves as a group outside of a few people in the industry or obviously the industry knows, the staff know, but most people have no idea these bars are even associated because they're not McDonald's, they're not copy and paste cookie Kosher properties, each one's individual. The Dawson Lounge kind of serves a lot of tourists. It's the smallest pub in Dublin but it also serves all the office workers and it's right beside the Shelburne, the Mansion House Fire. So like if the Irish rugby team or soccer team or the Dublin teams win, they're in their tuxedos, they all come across for drinks.
All the celebrities come in there because it's the smallest pub.
That's very different than our pub in Galway, which is famous for breakfast. It was one of the top carveries in the country, but it's a local pub as well. We don't really get the tourist trade. We do get tour buses coming in because we have the car park in the city, but we don't get tourists coming to us directly. Whereas in Stony Batter, it's a local pub, it's a cocktail bar.
All the locals come in with their dogs and all that. Whereas the other pubs in the area might be old man pubes. John Fallon's the Capstone Bar is definitely an old man pube, but it has an age profile from we have two music schools beside us, so you have their BIM music schools, so you have people in their twenty s, thirty s, forty s. Also that area with the small red brick houses, they're usually starter homes for people or for people renting. So young working professionals.
So we have a massive, massive clientele in that area. And then the Jar in Wexford Street is a late night bar. So it's usually, I think, we hold up to 700 people at the moment. We're putting another 250 people on. So moving forward, we have the guts of we will have the guts of 1000 people there every kind of Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, hopefully multiple DJs, multiple floors, multiple bars, two rooftop gardens and another massive garden.
We're opening in a few weeks. How big is that property? How big is the property? Square footage, I don't know. So we bought the building next door.
We're renovating three two bed apartments. We'll go open a new pizza restaurant. Oh, wow. We're hopefully opening two more of those. We'll have three pizza restaurants under the same brand, separate to the pubs, but it'll be serving into the pub.
And then we'll be serving the Beer Garden and the Bear. Wow. But that is all. I think we're like 12% draft, but we have 23 beer taps for only 12%. It's all cocktails, all spirits.
Nice. It's like 70% girls dressed off at dancing in there. And it's very different from our other bars. So all our bars are very different from each other. And then the bar, we're in here as well.
It's an unofficial bear bar, so you get that. And we're across from Penty Bar. And we're also on a cool street where there's lots of old man pubs as well. And it's 1st Reel Entertainment, lots of tourists as well, so they're all very different. Does each one have a signature cocktail that you serve?
Well, we don't do cocktails in the mall specifically, so this might sound strange to an American, but when you go to an old man pub that you just want Guinness, you don't want someone there rattling, rattling ice cubes in a shaker to make something fancy. You're looking for your ham and cheese toasty. You're looking for something authentic. You're beside the fire in your wooden sweater. So is one your ham and cheese toasty and your beautiful pint of Guinness.
If you want a cocktail, you go to a bar. If you want a pint, you go to a pub. Got it? Now, speaking of pints, which one of your bars serves the best Guinness? Well, I won't comment personally, but I will say the one that's probably ranked the highest is Balance, because it is ranked number two in Dublin.
The Dawson Lounge is ranked extremely high as well. But like our cocktail bars, I drink Guinness in them. But if you are a local in Dublin, you're going out with girls or whatever and you're going to have drinking dinner and then you're going to have for cocktails for the night, you're not going to drink, you're not going to have a pint of Guinness in a nightclub. Right? So even though the Guinness is fantastic, and while were open during the day in beer gardens or for your dinner, people will have a pint of Guinness or a different pint.
We do pizza, like we make wood fire pizza there. So the Italian pilsners are big sellers for us there. Okay. But I would say the most iconic for us is in Dublin is probably the Dawson. But then again, the Trappers and Galway had the highest sales of Guinness two years in a row back in the late 90s, so it very much depends.
But I will say, during lockdown, when we couldn't open, we actually opened Fallons and sold out the window in glasses. And the rule was they had to be at least 100 meters away from the bar, but we sold in actual pine glasses with coffee lids put on top because the law says they have to be covered. But these Italian wine holders, so their car board, but you could hold six bottles of wine, so they're very strong. People were coming, getting six pints while they're bringing the dog out for a walk and then going home. But I love it.
Every pub in the country was closed, every restaurant was closed. But you could get actual pints, not from a can. Like you can drink anything in from a can. You cannot drink Guinness. Guinness is very, very specific, especially to Irish people.
But we were doing like 35 kegs a week. There was a line to get these, and most bars and every bar and restaurant in the country was closed by this. Was that the only one you had open? No, we ended up with such success for that. The one in Galway, we opened, but we started doing delivery, so we had three or four cars on the road delivering pints.
Oh, wow. What about breakfast? We're delivering food. So we were delivering food, breakfast, carrie and we were delivering pints. Up to a certain point, it was like nine or 10:00 at night.
We opened this one as well because there was a lot of people drinking on the street outside. So we built a bar put into the fire exit. We know the bar over here and we were serving out to the street. And this area during COVID became a party area. So there'd be about 1000 people outside the front door on the street drinking and we were able to serve out to them.
Whereas most bars in the city just didn't bother opening because there was nothing around. So the government was like, Fine. Thousand people gathering. They allowed it here for some reason. That's interesting.
It was a lot of Brazilians and Mexicans who didn't want to be in that community. Whereas some of our other bars like so that the late night bar and the bar on Dawson Street like they're big busy streets. But for COVID, there was no one in the offices, there was no one around there. Whereas the bars we have in more community areas, you had everyone from the community come down to you. So we were doing food out the winter.
We were doing winter warmers for different types of drinks while you were going for walking your dogs and all that kind of stuff. But on a main street and 1st Reel Entertainment when every office and shop was closed, there was no point. And which is the one that has dogs here? Are you allowed dogs? We allow dogs here and we allow dogs.
We allow dogs in a lot of them, just not the late night party. So we allowed them on Capel Street, Stony, Batter and in Galway at the moment. Fantastic. Connor, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for telling you.
Very story. It's very intriguing how you started off and how you've made I'm going to say it's an empire because it's going to be someday because it's already so many bars. It's a very big word. It's your empire. It doesn't have to be a real empire empire.
It's more of a collection of just really cool social spaces that people can enjoy. You also kind of sound like a workaholic because if if you're doing all the bars, I don't know, your older brother may need to come stand. I think that the bigger we grow, the less physical work I actually do, hopefully. I think I'm down to only six days a week now. Only.
Well, again, thank you so much. Thank you very much. Absolute pleasure.
Conor Linnane, a passionate publican and entrepreneur, hails from a family deeply rooted in the hospitality industry. Born in New York but raised in Ireland, Conor spent his childhood above his family's bar, where he learned the ins and outs of the business. After gaining experience in hotel management, construction, and pharmaceutical sales, Conor returned to his true passion: owning and operating bars. With his family's influence and support, Conor and his brothers own six bars in Ireland, including Dublin's smallest pub and an iconic old man's bar.
Broderick Hicks is a fourth-generation jeweler who has been crafting unique, customizable bourbon barrel rings for the past three years. As the creative force behind the family-owned business, Broderick has managed to combine his love of good bourbon with his passion for fine jewelry. Sourcing their bourbon barrel wood from Kentucky, Broderick and his team have created over 25 different designs that can be customized to suit individual tastes. With thousands of rings sold, Broderick's innovative jewelry has gained popularity among both bourbon enthusiasts and those looking for something truly special to wear.
Since 1948, BW James Jewelers/ Bourbon Barrel Rings has served thousands of customers with their engagement rings, wedding band, and jewelry needs. We are fourth generation family owned jeweler. "Just because it's whiskey, it doesn't make it a bourbon." Each bourbon barrel rings is one of a kind just like your special someone who will wear it. The barrels used in making our rings are hand cut in heart of bourbon country Kentucky. They are made from genuine aged reclaimed bourbon barrels purchased from distilleries including makers, buffalo, turkey, woodford, beam, and roses.*
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