SWZ: Irish folk are known to be straight to the point so my first question is: Which other cities were named in the final shortlist?
Stephen Tierney: Well, the others in the top 3 were Atlanta and Bordeaux. So America and France finished behind us.
There must have been some confusion when a little place like Bolzano was named as winner?
Tanya Cregan: The first thing everybody at the prizegiving wanted to know was where Bolzano was.
In your own small, or should I say big way, you have helped put Bolzano on the map. Proud of that?
Stephen Tierney: Absolutely. Running Temple Bar takes a lot of hard work, long hours and very little holiday time. Over the years we have strived to do the best we can and this is shown by our strong loyal customer base and the fact that they call Temple Bar their 2nd home. The Irish Pubs Global Federation is a global organisation set-up to build a network between pub owners around the world. With this award many of these pub owners and managers will be asking where on earth is Bolzano and what is it that we, the owners, have done to achieve this award.
Could you explain a little what authenticity involves for purposes of the prize criteria?
Stephen Tierney: The organisation Irish Pub Global is set up to benefit Ireland and Irish pubs around the world. The thinking behind it is that if you enter an Irish Pub then the curiosity will grow inside you to one day visit Ireland. It is about building brand awareness, and the Irish Pub experience in Ireland is one of the most pleasurable experiences rated by tourists who visit Ireland.
The price is awarded to the Irish Pub which, in the opinion of the judges, is the most authentic Irish Pub experience outside of Ireland, including design, atmosphere, staff and general offering. Basically we may not be able to provide the range of services of a big bar, but, we have built a strong connection with the local community and this is recognised throughout all the region as our name has become synonymous with excellent, friendly service served in a relaxing atmosphere. And one thing to add is that we do not tolerate people who are rude or disrespectful – the customer is not king but only part of the equation for us.
And why did you take the trouble to even enter the competition? Objectively your chances of winning would have seemed remote and a bit of a waste of time?
Tanya Cregan: We believe very much in what we are doing and we wanted to express this as part of our community involvement, and of course we are Irish through and through so we want to support and be part of this organisation – a sense of belonging is important in life and in business. Winning was such a shock when there are over 7000 Irish Pubs around the world. But we strongly believe the atmosphere and design of our bar is as you would find in any village in Ireland.
We spoke about authenticity. What are your essentials in trying to run a good Irish pub?
Stephen Tierney: Temple Bar is an Irish Pub and an Irish pub stands for good quality food and drinks with excellent service and a warm welcoming atmosphere. We provide a unique atmosphere in Bolzano, where people from both cultures and also those from around the world, mix and gather for a chat with the barstaff or their friends. We are seen as a truly international bar.
Maybe give an example or two if you could?
Tanya Cregan: All the artefacts and bric & brac have been sourced from the 2nd hand shops and markets around Dublin. Temple Bar has grown with the fondness of its customers. Adorned with signed rugby and hockey jerseys, creations from our customers and pictures of famous patrons who‘ve dropped in for a pint and a chat, these are all testimonials that make Temple Bar such an Authentic Irish Pub.
You seem to have a regular client base of people from many walks of life – young and middle aged, professionals and sporty types, German speakers and Italian speakers. How is such a mix possible?
Stephen Tierney: The Irish Pubs around the world are famous for welcoming everybody, whether you‘re in a suit and tie or work clothes or in your shorts and t-shirt. Respect is what determines if you are welcome to return. Here in Temple Bar the fact is we don’t have any boundaries or divisions. We organise a lot of activities in-house and also treks in the mountains to help build the bond. We like our customers to feel a part of something, we are all friends here, new and old, no strangers, and we always encourage conversation. It is this that creates the warmth and friendliness of the pub and so therefore makes it very appealing. With students and expats sipping their pints amongst the locals, we have built something unique in Bolzano, a “Home from Home”. It is this philosophy that helps people identify with the Temple brand.
And now I guess you will be moving back full-time to Ireland to make the most of this business success. Open a chain of pubs or something similar?
Stephen Tierney: No way. We are here for life. I am married and expecting a second child.
Tanya Cregan: And I have my wedding coming up in September. Both our partners are from the area so we are very much integrated and here for the long run.
So what appeals to you about the way of life here?
Tanya Cregan: A big thing is the beauty of the surroundings and the opportunity to get out in the hills or to the lakes. Even though we have a lot of rain in Ireland people are keen to look for a quality way of life.
Stephen Tierney: South Tyrol is similar to Ireland; Two languages, two cultures and a wonderful appreciation of the beautiful surrounding landscape. The region is also blessed with some fantastic restaurants, located in the villages or also up hidden in the mountains. The choice maybe limited to Italian or Tyrolean cuisine, but you will never tire of tasting these dishes when the quality is so good.
And as foreigners have you been well accepted by the business community?
Stephen Tierney: Yes, we have been accepted very well. However this only works both ways, as you too must show respect to the local business community. This may get us into hot water with some people, however, when you open a bar, you do not only do it for fun, you do it because it is a business that you know and understand and have years of experience in. It is a long term project with long term goals.
Is there anything which really drives you mad in terms of common business sense and regulations in Bolzano? Anything which could be improved?
Stephen Tierney: One thing stands out like a sore thumb and that is the repetitive nature of some of the bureaucratic processes. We understand and respect the need for administrative practices but filling in the same forms with same information year after year is just crazy.
Where did you gain your experience?
Tanya Cregan: Apart from Ireland we have been at different times in Australia, Singapore, and Cambodia too.
You sometimes have live music outside but there never seems to be trouble and broken glasses and all that sort of chaos. It all seems very civilised fun and entertainment.
Stephen Tierney: We have always been clear from the outset that no poor or outlandish behaviour is accepted. Respect works both ways. We prepare well, inform staff of how to manage the event, and in the end our clients are as keen as us to ensure that all works well.
And another thing to mention is that the young kids who are often a cause for concern with their antics seem to keep away from the place?
Stephen Tierney: Again it has always been a basic rule of ours, and the staff know and implement it to the full, that we insist on checking ID and are not afraid to check again – the claim from a youngster that ‘your colleague already checked’ does not work with us. We strongly discourage under-age drinking. Young people are welcome here as much as anybody else but they need to appreciate what the atmosphere of the pub is all about.
You seem to have your ideas clear. Is this a particularly Irish trait?
Tanya Cregan: Well, we are quite frank and don’t mind calling a spade a spade – and we usually have a smile on our face and look at people straight – smiles speak volumes! As a whole the Irish are a very confident bunch of people. We are very patriotic and with this comes confidence.
What is it about the Irish that makes you stand out? What are the basic characteristics of decent Irish folk?
Stephen Tierney: I suppose we have a natural curiosity and that we like to know about and take an interest in people … and are not afraid to say hello to a stranger – especially if he or she buys a drink! We are also very proud of our country and being Irish. Every year when the Six Nations Rugby is on there is great banter amongst all the fans.
And to finish I’d like to ask a couple of light-hearted but also serious questions.
Is Guinness really good for you?
Tanya Cregan: It really is. We call it ‘mother’s milk’, it has a lot of iron in it, has far fewer calories than most beers.
What has surprised and pleased you most about the reaction to having won the prize?
Tanya Cregan: The fact of people stopping us in the street and congratulating us and some of the regular customers were so pleased on the night, that they were brought to tears. We see the award very much as a recognition for the community of which we are part. Without our customers we would not be here talking and enjoying a pint.
You see we involve our customers – we sponsor a number of sports teams and local associations and from the very beginning we have acted in support of charities at national and international level – it is part of what we are about.
Could you just explain what the famous Irish craic is all about?
Stephen Tierney: We use the word Craic when we are talking about how things are: “What‘s the Craic?” or “How are you?”, describing an event “That was great Craic” means “That was very funny”. But mostly it‘s about going down to your local pub and meeting up with a few people and to enjoy the craic. Craic is part ‘n parcel of an Irish Pub, without it you’re doomed. The great thing about an Irish Pub is that you can walk into an Irish pub without knowing anybody and leave with many friends. It even happens that people are invited to a party by a bunch of strangers they‘ve only just met? I think this is a uniquely Irish thing.”
Would you like to add a final word?
Stephen Tierney: We’d just like to say: Go raibh mile maith agut! Sláinte to one and all!