By Denise McNamara
A Galway venue has been voted the best live music venue in the country, for the first time in the five-year history of the awards.
Monroe’s Live scooped the National Live Music Venue of the Year award at the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) headquarters in Dublin on Tuesday following a vote by the public.
The Róisín Dubh was named best venue in Connacht but this was collated from votes from IMRO’s 8,000 members.
Opening its doors over two floors in 2009, Monroe’s Live above the well-known pub on the corner of Dominick Street has been a huge hit with Galway audiences from the off.
Partner Fergus McGinn, who took over the lease of the building in 2006, said the award would bring brand awareness to the venue nationally.
“It was a massive investment to develop what was here already with the tradition of good music and good service. We wanted to provide a bigger stage and bring in bigger crowds,” enthused a delighted Fergus.
“There were plenty of night clubs for younger age groups and not as much for older and middle aged people. Once you hit 20 you were old!,” remarked the 45-year-old.
“You still want to go out and dance but not in a nightclub atmosphere. We’ve hosted 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays. We’re a place for a local crowd who are not into the high tempo Saturday night stuff.”
Monroe’s has been host to Cathy Davey, Neil Hannon, Ryan Sheridan, Damien Dempsey, Sharon Shannon, The Stunning and Brian Kennedy.
For 2013, gigs lined up include Maria Doyle Kennedy, Janet Devlin, Atomic Kitten, East 17, Jack L, Lúnasa.
It has become a magnet for local bands such as the Timber Tramps and Oddity who relish the chance to play on a large stage. Last week the venue hosted The Last Waltz, which featured a host of local bands.
With music seven nights a week in the building and a late night bar over the weekend upstairs, Monroe’s is a hive of activity year-round, regularly employing 50 staff a night.
The hardest thing about running a live music venue is convincing people to pay up at the door, admits Fergus.
“We’re trying to keep the admission costs down. It can be trying to charge people at the minute. But we have three or four bands a night, with five or six in each band,” he explained.
“Other than paying the bands we have to pay sound engineers, door staff, bar staff and cleaning-up staff – the costs are massive. You have to charge on the door. But if you give them good quality ceol they are willing to. Also the West End is thriving at the minute.”
Previous winners of the top prize included the Cork Opera House and The Olympia in Dublin the year before that.