Last week marked an important milestone for one local business as Gerry and Teresa Burns celebrated 40 years of ownership of Charlie’s Bar, Enniskillen.

Originally named The White Star Bar, Gerry purchased the bar in May 1982 from his father the eponymous Charlie and named it after him under Gerry’s ownership. The bar has been in the Burns family for 78 years.

The landmark pub has seen some change over the years remarked the pair but has played host to many memories for both the Burns family and their punters alike.

Loyal customers

Speaking about the success of their business, which has retained customers from Charlie’s time as owner as well as generations of families, Gerry said: “It’s all about good staff and people who will talk to customers, we have a very loyal customer base and I think people are made feel very welcome “

Teresa said: “We would have staff who have been here substantial amounts of time, we employed a lot of the family until they all grew up and went away. All of our children worked through here; David, Paula, Una and Clare.”

The bar has seen expansions under the couple, who said: “We expanded it, as we bought a private house behind the bar, and we went on out the back to quite a big area.”

Teresa said: “We built the extension in 2001 and it was quite a big job at the time, we researched it and came across an interior designer who was skilled and talented in refurbishing bars, Drew Henry and he kept it in an old style. We have really maintained that since, but everything we had added has kept to that style to keep the character.”

Gerry added that they took inspiration from other bars to inspire changes to Charlie’s “I was in a pub in Bundoran and noticed that the toilets had been moved to do more business so if I moved mine down, I would get more people in.”

One thing has not changed is that Guinness still remains the most popular drink in Charlie’s. Gerry added: “A lot of the young ones drink it now, and vodka, of course,” with Teresa adding “and prosecco now too”.

The clientele has also changed adds Teresa: “It would have been a lot of men [at the beginning], but I say it’s now 50/50 men and women. Gerry suggested a reason for this may be the live music incorporated, he said: “They look on the internet now to see what band or singer is playing upstairs or if we have a booking upstairs for a wedding day two or a do.”

Acknowledging the Covid-19 pandemic as a difficult time for the business, Gerry and Teresa both recalled good times also with both immediately recalling Ireland’s World Cup campaigns over the years as a highlight. Teresa laughed as she said: “I can remember we had to bring the furniture over from the sitting room.”

Hub for sporting fans

A hub for all sporting fans, the bar is home to the Fermanagh Manchester United Supporters club, something they are proud of, Gerry added with a smile: “We get Liverpool fans too!”

Both Gerry and Una expressed great pride throughout their interview with this newspaper in their daughter Una for her management of the bar, a role she has held for just over 18 months.

Speaking of the importance of the family connection for her and her lifelong association with the bar, Una said: “I think I was 15 when I started on St. Patrick’s Day lifting glasses and I worked in every weekend, until I started university. It gives you invaluable life lessons that you probably didn’t know you were getting at the time.

“The connection to the family was there and it meant a lot to us, even when you were called in on your day off,” laughed Una

She concluded: “I’m hopeful that legacy can continue as well. I think customers really like that, even visitors like we had the fisherman in last week, and they were saying they’ve been coming here for over 25 years and its nice to see it in the same family.”