Charlie Chawke, who owns nine pubs, said front-of-house bartenders “have to be Irish” to show customers that Ireland’s “céad míle fáilte” [one hundred thousand welcomes] is still alive and well.”
Speaking to the Irish Independent Chawke said, “I believe it is essential to have Irish staff behind the bar or on the floor because they have the blás and the personality to get on with customers.
“Irish staff know what is going on in Croke Park or in the rugby or what is happening around the country.”
Jerry O’Connor, spokesperson for the Immigrant Council, responded by saying the ability to extend a “céad míle fáilte” is not something unique to people born in Ireland.
He said, “While the traditional Irish pub is world-famous, many have benefited from the talents, skills, and hospitality of staff from across the globe.”
O’Connor went on to point out that a large section of Irish society is made up by those who were not born here and added that to exclude anyone from employment in a certain sector simply due to their nationality is illegal. It is estimated that 500,000 non-nationals live in Ireland.
“A total of 17% of people who call Ireland home were born in another country,” he said.
“To suggest they should be excluded from employment in hospitality, or any other sector, is not only wrong but, if implemented by any employer on the basis of nationality, would be illegal.”
Chawke later said, to RTE Radio, that he had been misquoted.
He told RTE, “What I meant was, I like to have Irish people on my premises meeting, greeting, and seating people because it has been well established by Bord Fáilte and others that, when people come to Dublin or Ireland, they want to visit the Irish pub and I do believe, and it’s a formula that I’ve worked on, is what they really mean is they want to meet Irish people and they want to engage with them.”
He said that although he employs plenty of non-Irish they do not give the same welcome to tourists “in the same tongue, the same language.
“They do their job and they do it very well for me and I have lots of them employed.
“It’s not that I don’t wish to employ foreign people. Of course I do. They are wonderful as well and they do a great job for me.”
A Czech owner of a Dublin city center bar disagreed. Speaking to the Herald newspaper Igor Mensik, who owns Pifko Bar and Grill on Usher's Quay said, "From a manager's point of view, when you hire someone you don't base it on their nationality; you base it on their experience."
"If you have someone working for you and the customer leaves feeling they were welcomed and made a new friend, then nationality has nothing to do with it."
During his interview with the Independent Chawke also said his business is still feeling the effects of the recession. In 2005 Chawke bought the Orchard Inn, in Rathfarmham for €22 million ($28m). This was the most expensive pub ever sold in Ireland.
He told the Independent, “I don't believe that the recession is over for the pub trade. It may be for certain sectors, but it is still tough work to survive as a publican.
"I don't see anyone buying champagne at our pubs just yet. They might be buying prosecco, but that is a lot cheaper than champagne.”