When The Going Gets Tough: Johnny Duggan

When The Going Gets Tough: Johnny Duggan

In the most difficult of years, these incredible Galway business people grew, learned, inspired and adapted in spectacular fashion. One such person is Johnny Duggan and this is his story...

2020 will be remembered by most as 'The Year The Pubs Closed'. An unimaginable scenario just over a year ago, it's something we have had to get used to fast, but how have the pubs and their staff found it? In the latest instalment of 'When The Going Gets Tough', we spoke to local legend Johnny Duggan to get an insight into the life of a publican during a pandemic. It's not all doom and gloom, though, Johnny sees pints, festivals and sun on the horizon...

Johnny Duggan Taylors Bar

Tell us a bit about your usual role?

I head up the BRTW Group which owns and operates Taylor's Bar & Beer Garden and is also involved in residential development & construction around Galway. With a background in accountancy and hospitality business management, I tend to look after the behind the scenes stuff and I am involved in overseeing operations in the pub with Philip Duignan. Towards the end of 2020 I also took over as Chair of the Galway City Vintners. Currently I work with the local VFI committee to make recommendations to the national VFI (and ultimately to government) to help us get some material assistance to our hard-hit sector to assist with its survival and successful reopening post pandemic.

How has your day-to-day routine changed throughout 2020?

Like most hospitality businesses in 2020, we have opened and closed a few times. Unfortunately, some businesses didn’t get to reopen at all after closing in March 2020! So, my role has been very much about opening and closing a business, laying off and rehiring staff, and contingency planning as information arises. In Taylor's Bar & Beer Garden we’ve had to adapt. In early 2020 (due to the European Capital of Culture happening!) we had planned to fit a kitchen in our Beer Garden in order to be able to open earlier in the day and to have a food offering. We got this done and it allowed us to open in July 2020 as a bar/restaurant under the new COVID guidelines. Thankfully, with the new guidelines in place and having a significant outside area we were able to trade through the Summer and the Covid-19 case numbers remained low across the country (remember that!). We made the most of what we had and it was certainly a very different year than we were expecting heading into January 2020!

What have you learned in that time?

I’ve learned how to wash my hands properly! I can now sneeze into my elbow. I’ve also learned that sometimes there’s absolutely nothing more you can do other than ride out the storm. Like the crash of 2009, a civil war, an earthquake, a tsunami, a great famine, etc. – sometimes you are powerless to change much at all and time has to pass to get back to normal. In the interim, all you can do is your best, whatever that is for you.

How will these lessons impact your choices in the future?

I have a fairly philosophical outlook on life in general, so I tend to take the good with the bad. As I like to say in business; "We march on and let's deal with what’s in front of us". Last year, like every year, you learn something and move on.

Taylor's Bar

What message would you send yourself 12 months ago, if you could?

Buy at least one supermarket that also has a large off licence! Swimming will be called Sea Swimming this year by people that have discovered that we are an island surrounded by the sea and that you can actually swim in it. There will be a temporary toilet roll shortage.

Tell us about your standout memory of 2020?

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and how it triggered a worldwide response.

What are your hopes for the year ahead?

I hope that the vaccination programme is rolled out swiftly and successfully so that we can get back to social normality by the end of the summer with as little ill health and loss of life as possible. I hope that our government realise that this has been 'The Great Economic Famine' for the hospitality, arts, performance and events sectors and that meaningful reliefs and stimuli are put in place to assist all to rebound as quickly as possible.

Personally, I hope that I am at a festival in September in sunny Ireland or elsewhere, at a live performance, singing out loud, hands in the air, surrounded by people that I know and don’t know, no mask, absolutely going for it. I hope to be able to walk in to one of the many great Galway pubs soon, without a reservation or a mask, sit up at the counter on a high stool, and order a tasty beverage.


Pint of Guinness for me please, tulip glass, with a Green Spot on the side in a Glencairn glass, straight up.

Follow Taylor's Bar & Beer Garden on social media for updates on re-opening and to get involved in all the craic!

Published on Updated on