Galway has lost one of its best-known and highly regarded restaurants with the announcement by the owners of Loam that it will not be reopening.
In a statement on the Michelin-starred restaurant’s website, Enda McEvoy and Sinead Meacle said that after eight years they had been offered the opportunity to be released from their lease and had decided to avail of it as “the cost of running such a large space right now is insane and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier”.
The couple said their other venture, the bakery, restaurant and wine bar Éan, would continue to operate and that they were also working on a new project.
Loam closed in September when the couple said that, despite a good spring and summer, the approach of winter brought too much uncertainty and they were “feeling the effects of staff shortages and spiralling costs as is widespread across the industry”.
‘I miss breakfast rolls and the sense of humour but our life in the US has been as normal as anyone else’s with young kids’
Chef Christine Walsh was subsequently reported to have moved to London while McEvoy worked in the kitchen at Éan, but there was no suggestion at that point that the business would not reopen.
The message on the website says: “We are sad Loam will not be reopening in its current location in Fairgreen this spring. Fairgreen Road, the unlikeliest of places for a restaurant, has been great to us the last eight years and we will miss being up there but ultimately we feel this is the correct course of action for us.”
[ Restaurants under pressure: ‘This energy crisis will push all our backs to the wall’ ]
Loam was one of 21 Michelin-starred restaurants in Ireland in 2022 and one of just two in Galway – the other is JP McMahon’s Aniar, where McEvoy was previously head chef.
McEvoy and Meacle launched Loam in 2014; the restaurant landed its star within 10 months and went on to win a steady stream of other awards and plaudits. Since 2019 it has also been recognised by Michelin for its approach to sustainability.
It now joins a growing list of restaurants across the country to close their doors due to rising costs, staff shortages and the impact of recent cost-of-living increases on customers. Among those to have gone is another of McMahon’s premises, Tartare in Galway, which closed at the end of last summer after five years.
McMahon said on Monday that Loam would be “an awful loss to the city” but that it was a sign the key challenges facing those in the trade “have not gone away”.
“Closing a Michelin-starred restaurant is not an easy decision because it becomes more than a restaurant, it becomes a destination for visitors to the city, but there aren’t enough staff and the overheads are just too high.”
McMahon said that another of his restaurants, Cava Bodega, had recently received an electricity bill for €60,000, and while its scale was partly accounted for by the extended period it covered due to the withdrawal of a power supplier from the Irish market, it presented a huge challenge in advance of any funds it might receive from the Government’s business energy support scheme.
“People say ‘Oh God, restaurants are busy at the moment,’ but the overheads are so large. It’s not just the rents, although when leases end and they go up dramatically, that’s certainly an issue, but there are so many other factors. It’s hard to see a way out of it.
“When it comes to staff, you could argue that from an economic perspective there simply has to be some sort of contraction, because there is simply not enough staff to support them all, but that is very hard on people forced to close their restaurants.”
McEvoy and Meacle say they will announce the details of their new venture in due course.
[ Loam: A culinary treat in the west of Ireland ]
When Irish Times restaurant reviewer Corinna Hardgrave visited Loam in August 2020 she found it to be a “culinary treat” offering “delicious, precise cooking using exemplary produce”. She described McEvoy as an intuitive and naturally talented chef.