The Irish Times - Monday, January 30, 2012
Has nightlife died in Irish towns? Not if a recent Friday night in Co Clare is anything to go by. Retailers, restaurateurs and revellers on O’Connell Street, Ennis explain how life goes on
It’s a Friday night in mid-January in Ennis, population 24,000, and O’Connell Street is busy. The narrow, curved street, lined with period buildings, is defined at one end by a distinctive commemorative pillar topped with a statue of Daniel O’Connell, who was declared an MP for Clare here in an 1828 by-election.
A rough tally of premises on the street comes in at 77, not counting those above street level. They include six bars, a hotel, six phone shops, two groceries, four shoe-shops, two florists, 12 clothes shops, a charity shop, two jewellers, two newsagents, two travel agents, a Milano, two fast-food restaurants, a camera shop, a bakery, a bookies, a Euroworld discount shop, a Boots, six vacant premises, and the entrance to a shopping centre, anchored by Dunnes Stores, that was built in the early 1990s.
A steady line of cars slowly navigates the one-way street, which is so narrow that there are scarcely three steps from one side to the other, and motorists are usually forced to crawl along to accommodate the jay-walking pedestrians who treat the street as if it is traffic-free.
Jo Walsh is on her way to dinner in Brogan’s bar and restaurant with friends visiting from Dublin, Fiona and John Power. They’ve booked a table and reckon on spending at least €100 tonight between them. “I love the fact this is still a proper street and not a mall,” Fiona Power says. “It has atmosphere.”
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