Thursday 27 October 2016

Shock as 'pioneer, visionary and owner of Lillies' dies aged just 57

The late Oliver Hughes
The late Oliver Hughes

Tributes have been paid to leading Dublin publican Oliver Hughes after his sudden death over the weekend.

A co-founder of the Porterhouse Group and owner of VIP haunt Lillie's Bordello, he passed away from a suspected heart attack at his home in north Dublin on Saturday night.

The Glasnevin native, a former criminal barrister, is survived by his wife Helen and his two children Holly (21) and Elliott (24).

The businessman, who once fronted an RTE show called The Master's Apprentice, had been treated for a heart condition in recent weeks. He eas convalescing at home when he took ill suddenly. He was 57.

Dave Morrissey of the Porterhouse Group, said that everyone had been left "devastated" by the news, and added that the industry had lost a true pioneer.


Mr Morrissey said he had only seen his business partner on Saturday afternoon as they checked out possible venue sites in north Dublin.

"We have lost a very good friend and partner," he said.

"He was such a great character and hugely intelligent. He was a pioneer in the business - a true visionary. He accomplished so many things during his lifetime.

"We are gutted with the loss. It's such a shock for his whole family and we'll miss him dearly," he added.

The Porterhouse company that Mr Hughes co-founded with his cousin Liam LaHarte back in 1989 incorporates seven bars, five restaurants, Dingle Distillery and its brewing operation.

A former Licensed Vintner's Association chairman, Mr Hughes set up the first Porterhouse bar in Bray in 1989, followed by the first Dublin venue in Temple Bar in 1996.

One of the pioneers of craft beers, he then set his sights abroad as he opened up another bar in London in 1999 as the company continued to grow.

The Porterhouse Brewery now supplies craft beer to all its venues and exports to America.


The group took over VIP haunt Lillie's Bordello and the adjacent venue, formerly known as Judge Roy Beans, which became Porterhouse Central.

In 2011, they opened a venue called Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan, housed in one of the city's oldest buildings.

Mr Hughes recently opened Dingle Distillery, which was the first purpose-built distillery for whiskey in Ireland for over 200 years.

Just last month saw the group complete the refurbishment of their Glasnevin venue, turning it into the Whitworth Dining and Bar, where Mr Hughes's daughter Holly works.

Many of the stalwarts of the hospitality industry paid tribute to the late Mr Hughes.

Lillie's Bordello promoter Garret Brady described him as the "greatest visionary the hospitality world has ever seen".

"The godfather of craft beer, charismatic, witty and always on the ball. Most important of all, a wonderful husband and a super father," he said.

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