Howes Bar, Omeath.

  • Omeath, Co Louth

One of the most iconic pubs in the whole of North Louth has to be the Bay View Tavern in Omeath. Better known as Howe’s the bar and lounge has been trading since the mid 1860s and is an integral part of the Omeath community.
Nestling at the base of Slieve Foy mountain the pub was built by William Howe and son Jack back in the mid 1860s and originally serviced the community as both a shop and pub. Father and son ran a very successful business from then until 1994 when Jack passed away. He left the premises to two workers Art McDonald and John Fearon who had been employed there for many years. The two men continued the pub’s success all the way until 1997 when they sold it on to Eugene McQuillan who continued the tradition until 2002.

He had heard that his cousin Denis Larkin was interested in buying the business; however he was busy in America where he ran his own construction company. The deal was done and Dennis’ brother Colm Larkin and family friend Ricky McVeigh took over the running of the place until Denis eventually sold up in the States and moved home in 2006. Already an integral part of the workforce, Ricky remained on and is still a driving force behind the bar until this very day.
Although the business had a wide and varied selection of grocery products, it was the bar part of the premises that proved most popular and profitable and over the years the shop gradually disappeared only to be replaced by an off licence.
One of the stores at the rear of the premises was used as a bottling plant for the bar and remained so until 1998 when Eugene McQuillan renovated it into another spacious lounge to help with the crowds enjoying the atmosphere in Howe’s. Although it is still in existence, it is now used for special functions whenever necessary.

But the one aspect of the pub that helps it to stand out from all its adversaries is its traditional look and feel. Since it came into existence 160 years ago, structurally very little has changed. It was given a renovation in the 1930s when it was updated, but still held onto its old world charm. The bar remains in the same location; the adjacent lounge has only had an old style ceiling replaced by Denis 15 years ago, all to keep the look of the business as authentic as they possibly can. The secondary smaller lounge, originally to facilitate female drinkers has now given way to a dart room for the pub.

Their attention to detail is uncanny, this can be seen by the many old artefacts spread around the premises and particularly behind the bar where bottles, tins and boxes from the days of the shop can be seen. This recently came to the fore when an Omeath man who left to find work in Australia sixty years ago, returned home on holiday and was moved to tears when he entered Howe’s saying it was just as he remembered it when he used to visit it with his dad all those years ago!

Such is the pride in their work; Howe’s have won numerous awards, taking home the Louth County Council’s Tidy Towns award for best pub shop front for a staggering 5 years in a row from 2010 to 2015.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Denis and his staff are constantly at work keeping the old look up to its high standards. Although he had plans for some major renovations in the mid 2000s, which included work to the pub and lounge and the building of apartments in the spacious car park, the financial crash in 2007 put paid to these. However, with a very strong local trade, the pub was able to continue to trade during this trying time.

Howe’s has now become the only pub left in Omeath (both other licensed premises are located in the two hotels in the village). This is a far cry from a time when the village could boast nine licensed premises (and the two hotels), but circumstance and conditions have changed, the smoking ban and more importantly the driving ban hit the village hard, but the number of regulars in Howe’s helped to see them through the tougher times.

Being a seaside resort, the village relies on the seasonal effect of tourism. With both hotels and a number of caravan parks in the vicinity, the summer months sees have Howe’s packed to capacity with holiday makers primarily from Northern Ireland. In the past, they also benefitted from the Sunday all day closures in the six counties. They also have an affiliation with their cross border neighbours Warrenpoint with the ferry bringing in more tourists to enjoy the ambience in the pub. The latest addition to their business has come from the newly opened Greenway walk between Carlingford and Newry, many of the travellers take pleasure in stopping off in Bay View Tavern for a refreshing drink on their journey, and hill walkers regularly use the car park as a starting point for their travels on the mountain.

Denis, his brothers Donal and Martin and his son Conor, along with Ricky McVeigh and a number of local bar staff also welcome an association they have struck up down through the years with local business Morgan’s Fine Fish who run a stall just outside the front door of the pub that runs from the May Bank Holiday all the way through to All Ireland Final day selling the best in fresh cockles, muscles and oysters to tourist sand locals alike.

On the sporting front, Howe’s have had a long association with local football club Cuchulain Gaels and have regularly sponsored their jerseys. They also had a football team, Bay View that competed in the Dundalk Winter League for nearly a decade and their two darts teams feature highly in the Newry Darts League. In years gone by, they also had a Tug O War team based in the pub that competed with many of the other local teams from around the peninsula.

The pub is also a haven for lovers of horse racing and their annual outing to Navan racecourse provides the regulars with a great day out and also helps to fundraise for Eric Beggs and the National Council for the Blind. Eric has had a long association with the pub and particularly Ricky who have been lifelong friends. They are also available to host charity nights for any necessary local causes.

Naturally, the pandemic had a huge effect on Howe’s, they closed their doors on Sunday March 5th last year and only had a short opening time of 21 days in September. But with plenty of time on their hands Denis and his friend Paddy Fisher take time each morning walking to Flagstaff and back before resuming their work both in the bar and more recently in the enclosed beer garden at the rear of the premise which should prove ideal for social distancing in the coming months. Denis said: ‘It has been a long hard time being closed, but we are all delighted to get the doors open again this week and look forward to seeing everyone again in the weeks and months ahead.’



Howes Bar, Omeath.

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