The Black Stuff Irish Pub in Luxembourg-Pulvermuhl is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary; it is firmly established in the social scene in the Grand Duchy, particularly known as a popular watering hole frequented by the Irish expatriate community, but not only them.
It garnered a reputation as "the" place to celebrate St Patrick's Day (held annually on 17 March) in Luxembourg, with a marquee in the pub's courtyard catering for the large crowd for those festivities which, traditionally, have not been limited to one evening per year. It has also been very active in corporate social responsibility (CSR), both by hosting charitable causes and supporting community organisations.
Chronicle.lu caught up with Caolan O'Neill, Rose Reckermann and John Molloy, the owners of The Black Stuff, in the run-up to their 30th anniversary celebration.
Chronicle.lu: When was The Black Stuff founded, and by whom?
Caolan, Rose & John: The Black Stuff was set up in October 1992. The original shareholders were Phil and Cathy MacKenna, John Molloy, Tina Moore and Joe Rooney.
Chronicle.lu: Were the founders already in Luxembourg and had the idea to set up an Irish pub, or did they come over especially to set it up?
Caolan, Rose & John: Phil and Cathy arrived in Luxembourg from New York in 1990 and set up the successful Harp Bar with, amongst others, Phil's brother Desmond MacKenna. The opportunity to take over The Black Stuff premises was offered to Phil and Cathy.
Chronicle.lu: Was The Black Stuff the first Irish pub to open in Luxembourg?
Caolan, Rose & John: No - the Pygmalion was already in situ.
Chronicle.lu: Phil MacKenna ran The Black Stuff for many years. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us; however, he was a huge figure, figuratively speaking. Please tell us about how you met and how you (Caolan) are "filling his shoes".
Caolan, Rose & John: Phil set up a bar in Ghent and Caolan left Ireland to work there. Caolan then came to Luxembourg to work as Phil's understudy. Phil left The Black Stuff in 2015 and Caolan then took over running the pub.
Chronicle.lu: Have you noticed any significant change in clientele over the the years? Is it primarily expatriate Irish or more locals that come in now?
Caolan, Rose & John: We feel that The Black Stuff is a true reflection of a typical Irish country pub with its low ceilings and treasure packed memorabilia on the walls. Once commonplace, it is proving more difficult to find such an authentic pub even back home in Ireland. It was built with love and pride by Phil and Cathy and we still feel is uniquely different from the Irish kit pubs which were set up all over Europe in the 1990s. We are extremely pleased that our loyal clientele are a true representation of the Luxembourg demographic. Since the lockdown, we are becoming even more popular with a broader spectrum of nationalities. The bar staff past and present have come from all over Europe. We are fortunate to currently have have Petra who is Czech, Fabrice who is French and Vanessa who is Danish.
Chronicle.lu: Currently, Caolan, Rose and John are the owners of The Black Stuff: do you all have different roles and responsibilities? How do you work together?
Caolan, Rose & John: We all work as a unit and fill in for each other whenever necessary - one could say that Caolan takes care of the operational side and is responsible for quality control whereas Rose takes care of the customer support and marketing side. John just sits in the background.
Chronicle.lu: What are you planning for your 30th anniversary on 29 October 2022?
Caolan, Rose & John: Live music from 17:00 to midnight when a DJ will take over until the small hours. We will have a food truck serving the best fish and chips in Luxembourg - Celtic Fish and Chips. Bar staff old and new will look forward to welcoming all.
Chronicle.lu: And do you have any plans for the next, say, five years? More of the same, or do you expect to try out anything new?
Caolan, Rose & John: With the advent of COVID, we slowly realised that the outside space was something that we did not fully appreciate, especially in the summer months. We have had bands playing on the terrace with occasional BBQs and/or food trucks over the past couple of years. This is something we may wish to promote further in the coming years. We also plan to have the terrace heating system up and running for the upcoming World Cups. Sports, both televised and local sponsorship, will continue to play a major role in our future. We will also continue to support charities close to both our hearts and those of our customers.