Kenmare Butter Market reinvents itself

Kenmare Butter Market

The former site of the Silver Slipper Ballroom and Hallissey’s Cash and Carry is to be developed as a whisky distillery with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. This will be Kenmare’s first distillery and will allow the town to participate in the resurgence of artisan Irish whisky making. The premises in central Kenmare were originally built as an open air butter market in the 1800s and locally-quarried limestone masonry from this time remains in the structure of the building to this day. The building is large, one of the largest indoor spaces in Kenmare, and all of this space is not required for the distilling element of the business. For this reason, the owners have decided to use the main building as an arts and events location for cultural purposes.

The operator of the premises will be Kenmare Butter Market Ltd which is owned by three Killarney residents with experience in property development, catering and distilling industries.

The building is in reasonably good condition but requires some redevelopment. It is intended to obtain planning permission for the distillery area in due course which will entail a redevelopment of the facades facing the square and the lane on the southern side that forms part of the property. It is expected that existing pedestrian access will be maintained to the Square through this lane.

World famous Grafton Architects have been engaged for this redevelopment and Kerry-born architects on the staff at Grafton have already begun work on the project.

Phase 1, prior to the redevelopment, will involve the continued retail use of the building but also a plan to host events of an artistic and community nature. Claire Bunbury, formerly of the Carnegie Arts Centre, has been engaged as Creative Director of the Butter Market to develop and operate the business during this phase. Claire has extensive experience of the arts sector and is an accomplished artist in her own right and is the main point of contact for enquiries about use of the Butter Market at

After planning permission for alterations and additions to the premises is obtained, phase 2 of the development will commence. The owners envisage that phase 2 will continue the arts and events use of the main building but with the addition of backstage facilities, the distilling equipment, a catering kitchen and artists’ studios.

The Butter Market will also get actively involved in local sustainability initiatives such as the creation of a marine national park in Kenmare Bay like Kosterhavet Marine National Park in Sweden and Ytre Hvaler National Park in Norway. The owners strongly believe that Kenmare is a natural hub for such a National Park and that such a development would benefit local tourism, fishing, farming and leisure interests.

Since the summer, the Butter Market has already been used as a stop on the Kerry Way Ultra running race, for biodiversity classes and for filming. Unfortunately, other planned events, including children’s theatre at Halloween, needed to be cancelled due to Covid 19. However if virus restrictions allow, we may be able to open for Christmas Markets in December.