From bars and nightclubs to restaurants and hotels, Ronan Lawless has been involved in them all, and while experiencing his fair share of bumps along the way he is going strong with The Forster Group 20 years later.
Peter Michael’s, as it was known at the time, was a busy local pub owned and run by the late Peter Michael Kelehan. A very well liked man, he ran a traditional pub serving bottles of stout with his own label that people would bring to ailing friends and relatives in the hospital across the road; the bottles were more commonly seen around the wards than boxes of chocolates or bunches of grapes. In 1992 at the tender age of 20, Ronan Lawless took over Peter Michael’s, renamed it the River Inn, and began to build on the steady trade by also serving food to satisfy the hungry student population and the local community, which continues to the present day.
In the late nineties, after successfully opening two more bars, Fibber Magees and Fox’s Bar, Ronan Lawless moved on to open Club Bogarts in Salthill. It was a risky move at the time as the Salthill night scene had experienced a serious decline with only a few clubs remaining, but he was quick to spot the opportunity and opened Bogarts in what was previously known as The Oslo. With a state of the art sound system, computerised customer loyalty membership, and the newly refurbished club, Bogarts quickly became the place to be seen.
In the year 2000 Mr Lawless turned his hand to the hotel game, opening the Forster Court Hotel in July of that year. Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of his control, there was a liquor licensing issue that had the potential to go on for some time. Not one to let the minor details get in the way, Mr Lawless opened the hotel on time and proceeded to give all residents complimentary drink for six months until the matter was finally resolved the following December. The ordeal received great press with Ronan Lawless’d face regularly seen on the front page of many national publications.
Down through the last 20 years Mr Lawless has employed hundreds of people in Galway city, starting with a team of 10 in 1992 which grew to more than 350 in the late nineties. He still employs more than 100 people today within the Forster Group. A well known sponsor of local sports teams and charities, he has been involved with Galway and Mervue United football clubs, and the NUIG rowing club among others.
To thank customerd for their loyalty and support, Ronan Lawless is inviting everyone to join him in the celebrations at the River Inn from May 24 to 27, when prices at the bar will revert to 1992 levels.