Chez le Fab run by Lesley Anne Liddane and Shay Riordan boasts several different titles, dog friendly café, arts café, wine bar and live music venue. There seems to be something for everyone.
Limerick Voice made a visit to the café to catch up with Lesley Anne and find out more about this eclectic café.
Located in the old Tourist Information office, Chez le Fab has a fantastic location, overlooking the River Shannon and located next to a busy bus terminal. But, owner Lesley Anne said it wasn’t always easy to entice customers to the café.
“When we first opened, the building had been vacant and derelict for so long, it took a lot of positivity on our part to keep up momentum and encourage folk to trail off the beaten path of the city’s usual footfall, but we are enjoying a consistent trade with a lot of regular custom, and there are still so many yet to discover our haven.”
It is safe to say that Lesley Anne is as busy as her cafe. A brightly dressed mannequin greets customers at the door, leaflets and colourful gig announcements line the walls and books, candles and dog figurines sit on tables lining the room. Scooby Doo is one of the most notable dogs.
The cafe itself is spacious and especially bright because three of its four walls are made up of floor to ceiling windows. The concrete back wall showcases large canvases all featuring Audrey Hepburn. One small feature, above the counter with colourful lightbulbs and paper laterns, hangs a small sign: “pets welcome, children must be on a leash”.
Not content with just catering for their growing fan base, Chez le Fab went viral in January for leaving a rail of coats outside the cafe for the homeless, where people were free to take or leave a coat whatever their needs may be.
Lesley Anne seems amused by the viral nature their act of kindness took on and tells Limerick Voice that: “We are very supportive of homeless charities, having regularly fundraised for MidWest Simon/Focus Ireland and now Novas, so we collaborated with a local lady Audrey Ryan, and the initiative to us was so simple yet we couldn’t believe the response, and we do very much hope that it inspires other cities to follow the example.”
When Lesley Anne sweeps into the room she is bubbly, friendly and busy. She is hospitality trained having worked in the industry since she was fifteen years old. Lesley Anne went into recruitment, then was a Personal Assistant/Office Manager for five years. She sidelined a business selling once-loved clothing and ran a very successful vintage fair for a year.
It was the vintage fair that inspired her to open Chez le Fab. She grew up in a household where her father ran a music business, which is celebrating it’s 50th year in business, assisting songwriters in over 67 countries.
Her father reckons she has always had a strong sense of entrepreneurship from a young age because as a small child she set up a Wendy house selling penny sweets out of it for kids in her neighborhood who weren’t old enough to walk to the shop.
“I was brought to London frequently as a child where dad had his offices, so really loved the culture there, with bustling cafés and markets, and in more recent years, myself and my partner Shay took trips to Paris where we just fell in love with some of the decor and vibes of night cafés and really felt inspired to bring all of the things that we enjoy together under one roof, keeping it as eclectic as possible,” said Lesley Anne.
Lesley Anne told Limerick Voice that although she doesn’t own a dog, she loves being around the animals.
“Sadly we aren’t currently dog owners, despite always having a pet growing up, and fostering a few from Limerick Animal Welfare over the years until they found forever homes. It’s a slightly selfish reason of sorts being dog friendly. We absolutely love being surrounded by so many gorgeous dogs and we have so many regulars, we know them all by name.”
Lesley Anne and her partner, Shay, encourage a friendly atmosphere for customers and their dogs, but still keep house rules in place.
“I guess it was a realisation that there aren’t really that many places that offer the dog-friendly policy we do, especially indoors, but we have our house rules that we abide by so everyone can enjoy the atmosphere of the café. As members of the Dog Friendly Association of Ireland, we are actively rallying to help make Ireland and Limerick a much dog-friendlier place to both live in and visit.”
She thinks Limerick needs to tap into its cultural potential more. She believes every city can strive to enhance its cultural offerings. There’s a strong focus on the arts in Limerick, which Chez le Fab is an avid supporter of.
Lesley Anne has some solid advice to give the aspiring entrepreneurs of Limerick.
“It’s cliché, but if you work at something you love you never work a day in your life, yes, this is so true, and there are lots of pros to being a business owner, but it is an incredibly tough graft, and be prepared to put in all the ground work, without getting overwhelmed when there are lulls in momentum.”
“If you have a business idea that you feel strongly about, talk to a partner or an informed business owner who has achieved along the lines of your goals, I know I would happily advise anyone who sought advice in advance. You learn so much when you go into business for yourself, and it is very rewarding when you realise you have built a business brand and won awards, when only over a year ago it was only a thought in your head,” she added.