With no sign of people being able to have a sociable pint in a local bar any time soon, one local publican has found a way to bring the pints to the people!

Garry Meehan of The Phoenix Bar in Water Street, Newry has been providing a home delivery service this past few weeks with pints of Guinness or beer freshly poured right outside your door and business is 'flat out'

Garry Meehan, The Phoenix Bar delivers another couple of pints. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Garry Meehan, The Phoenix Bar delivers another couple of pints. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

All you have to do is ring or text them from lunchtime on a Thursday place your order, pay with your card and book a delivery slot over the weekend. If any days or slots are filled up, a message is put up on The Phoenix Bar Facebook page to that effect.

Garry has been running The Phoenix Bar for six years now and has never quite had the challenge he faces in 2020.

Explaining how the Covid-19 crisis played out for them Garry said "The week before St Patrick's Day we were actually down in Dublin and lockdown had already started there. You could see it coming and you knew it wasn't going to be good"

Deciding the most important thing to do was look after the well-being of his regular customers, the Phoenix decided to close before St Patrick's day even though it was always one of the busiest times of the year for the bar. Virtually all Newry bars did likewise.

Pouring the Guinness. All the time in the world ...
Pouring the Guinness. All the time in the world ...

Watching closely the Hatfield Bar in Belfast and their experiences of bringing beer to the Belfast people Garry did a bit of checking and research himself and decided to give home delivery a go.

"At first it was just to get out of the house, I was out in Lissummon looking after our own regulars and it grew from there"

"We had the kegs all sitting here. We had a portable unit so that was it"

"It's a way to get out and you are getting to see your customers, to go out and have the crack, you're never going to make yourself a millionaire" ... plus he doesn't have to ask anyone to leave for being too drunk!!!

Their portable unit has been built into a van and the van arrives outside your door and the pints are pulled from the tap, just like they would be in the bar.

"We buy in glasses so no-one has ever used the glasses and you keep the glass at the end of it so no cross contamination.

On tap this week is Guinness and Coors and they have a range of cocktails from Expresso Martini to Sex on the Beach to Strawberry Daiquiri, all delivered in glass bottles. They have also started a full off sales service.

"Whenever you are out with people, you are delivering pints anyway. They are not going to sit on pints all night so if we are going out we may as well sort out whatever else they need."

At present they just distribute around the Newry area and deliver on Friday 5 - 9pm, Saturday 3 - 9pm and Sunday 3 - 7pm.

The idea has really taken off and as Garry says "We're Flat out. Obviously the weather plays a big part in it. Last week we weren't as busy as a couple of weeks before that, but you are going to get that. People don't really want the pints to be sat in the house, they want to be outside, having a barbecue. There would be a lot of places you go to, people are outside and they are keeping the whole social distance thing, whilst still having their pints together. You don't want to be sat in the house by yourself having a couple of pints, it's not really the same."

"People are loving it. It's a good way to get sociable. We have done a couple of Birthday Parties for people which is brilliant because obviously people aren't getting out

"Last weekend we had a man who had just turned 80 so he got a couple of pints for his birthday"

Garry Meehan with Pints of stout at the ready from The Phoenix Bar. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Garry Meehan with Pints of stout at the ready from The Phoenix Bar. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

On re-opening The Phoenix Bar when allowed Garry explains how it is just a waiting game "You are waiting to find out. Hospitality keep telling us not to do anything. You see places going out, getting their screens, doing this and that but nobody is giving any direction on what you are supposed to do, so people aren't throwing money for something they haven't been told to do."

"It's waiting and waiting and every so often you will get a glimmer of hope. Last Monday I thought that was going to be it, we were going to be given our date, but nothing changed"

The Phoenix are thinking about keeping the delivery service going after the pub reopens Garry says "I'd actually got the unit for people having events in their house

"The way it was going for a couple of weeks I was looking another van, but our problem at this moment in time is kegs, Diageo started brewing again last week but there's not too many kegs left out there. "

Unless more kegs become available they may not be able to go beyond much more than this weekend and next.

Caoimhe O'Gorman helps out with the Cocktails but even though the cocktail end is flying it might not work just with cocktails Garry thinks. All is working well at present but they are literally going week by week with no guarantee of reopening dates or supply of kegs.

As Garry says "You're just sort of winging it" but in the meantime the service is an interesting diversification and helps tide things over till there is more certainty in the industry.

Check out the Phoenix Bar Facebook Page for what you can order and you can ring or text orders to 07517 230 974




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