Advertising Feature: 26 St Patrick’s Days at the Coffs Hotel

Marty and Donna Phillips in front of the Shamrock Bar inspired by their long term tennant Dennis ‘Irish’ Colman Burns.


26 YEARS ago, when the Phillips family took over the lease at the Coffs Hotel, they inherited a larger than life tennant called Dennis ‘Irish’ Colman Burns who shaped the future of the pub.

The charm of Irish was intoxicating and Marty chuckles when he recalls the history of how the pub became an Irish pub.

“Irish was a true character who lived upstairs in the pub for many years.

“In 1996 we were celebrating my wife Donna’s birthday, drinking cans of Guinness.

“I said ‘Where’s Irish?’ and somebody answered ‘He’s down the Planto because they have Guinness on tap’.

“Irish told me rather bluntly that we needed Guinness on tap.

“So not only did we start selling Guinness and Kilkenny on tap, we turned the place into an Irish pub and named the front bar the Dennis ‘Irish’ Colman Burns Shamrock Bar.

“For the first time, Irish was speechless and St Patrick’s Day on 17 March became our biggest day of the year.

“Our first St Paddy’s Day was massive, every man and his dog was there.

“Our local member Andrew Fraser was there and Gary Ledden from Star FM said ‘You’re onto a winner here Marty, you gotta do another one real soon’.

“So we did another two months later and to much success a fantastic day was had, so we started celebrating St Paddy’s on the first Friday of every month with the band O’Tallowood lighting up the Shamrock Bar.

“We continued that for years before going back to celebrating once a year on St Paddy’s Day,” said Marty.

Marty recollected the night the British Lions rugby team lit up the pub.

“One year the British Lions joined us as they toured Australia, wow they could drink.

“It was one of the best nights as far as atmosphere goes by far, they said the beer was so cheap they bought two pints at a time,” he said.

However, the last couple of years have stirred mixed emotions through the pandemic.

“2022 St Patrick’s was a different kettle of fish, I had a whirlpool of emotions, for the first time, I was nervous nobody would show up.

“The pandemic really knocked us for six, I was worried people wouldn’t come back.

“I was really proud of the community and everyone involved with the pub, we’ve seen the lows as well as the highs but the pandemic has been the toughest for the pub.

“My wife (Donna) has been an inspiration since day one and the backbone of the pub, which I thank her for dearly.

“We don’t know how many more St Paddy’s we have to look forward to, it’s in the lap of the Gods.”

The Coffs Hotel has survived floods, fires and a pandemic over the years.

Marty recalls some of the challenges they have faced.

“In 2005 the Hotel was almost burnt to the ground, through the help of the community we were able to restore her.

“It was a mammoth effort, we lost a lot of the Irish memorabilia and the original decoration but we saved the pub.

“We’ve had devastating floods over the years and even seen cars floating down the Pacific Highway.

“Covid-19 was a different challenge because fixing the problem was out of our hands, we just had to abide by the law and close the doors.

“The NSW and Federal government did a great job, my employees got paid whilst the doors were shut and if it wasn’t for that assistance we wouldn’t have had any staff to reopen the pub with.

“The people we have met over the years have been incredible, that’s my strongest memory, hopefully the journey will continue as I’ve just had two new knees and look forward to skating around the hotel in the role of publican,” said Marty.




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