What does it really matter when another restaurant closes? It is just another business corpse to be tossed on the mountain of others whose bones are long since scorched by the sun. What does it matter and does anyone really care?
Working in the industry, I see the struggle day by day. I hear the stories and feel the pain, anger and frustration. I also witness success and delight in business development. However nothing has really ever touched me the way the closure of The Kitchen and Foodhall in Portlaoise did. The most common word used to describe it’s passing in Portlaoise and beyond was ‘bereavement’.
Its an energy thing. Wandering into Hynds Square several weeks after Jim, Caroline, Immelda Tynan and their staff closed the doors for the last time, I could feel the energy bouncing off the ground. For 29 years the Kitchen slowly grew in size and gradually wove a hammock of familiarity for the community.
‘See you in Jim’s’ became as familiar a greeting as ‘See you under Clery’s clock’.
The energy that a restaurant generates is that of a thousand things. It is happiness, sadness, joy, exhilaration. It is that of jilted lovers, worn out mothers, tortured teens, dads taking refuge on a Saturday morning, girlie confessions, lads talking football, children being initiated to real life social media. It is the creativity of a chef in love with food, it is the pride of a buzzing room of happy, well fed diners, it is ‘oh my God, let me show you the gorgeous dress I bought, but let me get a latte and apple crumble first’. It is birth and death and all the energies inbetween.
When I looked at the green blinds down for good on Jim’s Kitchen I imagined the invisible energies of all these happenings still buzzing around inside. I imagined all the great and small events celebrated there. I remembered the extraordinary number of thrilled customers who turned out to congratulate Jimmy on the launch of his first book. An earwig would have been hard pressed to get through the throng.
I remembered all the Christmas Eve’s where it seemed every single customer wanted to be able to meet each other before he closed for a truly well deserved break. I remembered the way the restaurant was so creatively decorated at Christmas. Gigantic hampers groaning with the best of Irish products whom Jim always supported and championed. I remember the really great simple, local, fabulous food.
I remember Jim’s sisters Immelda, Caroline, Brigid and all their loyal staff, smiling, joking, working hard to improve it day after day. I remember the music on Saturday from a group whose faces are clear but whose names I never knew.
The energies are still there and as I remember all these things, ‘bereavement’ is the word.