LISTEN: FULL RADIO INTERVIEW ON LIVELINE ABOVE
A Tullamore café owner told a fellow caller to 'drop dead' in a stunning on-air appearance on Joe Duffy's Liveline programme on RTE Radio 1.
Tom McNamara, who was well-known as 'Texas Tom' because of the former Tullamore department store, called the show to tackle a customer who complained about a price hike in his café, The Coffee Club in Tullamore.
The woman, Anne, also from Tullamore, said she noticed a stir-fry in the premises had increased from €9.99 to €11.99 overnight following Tuesday's budget and the government's decision to reinstate the 13.5% VAT rate for the hospitality sector. A 9% rate had been brought in to help hotels and the wider hospitality industry during the recession.
Tom denied that the change was as a result of the budget and said the increase came into force back in May. He also quoted a number of 'stir-fry combinations' that can incur different prices.
As things got heated between the pair and a number of other callers, Tom told a woman named Judith, who was complaining about Tom's attitude to "drop dead."
He asked another elderly gentleman who called to challenge him, “why aren’t you at work?" asking if he was “on the dole."
Tom's appearance garnered a strong backlash on social media with many labelling him the 'Basil Fawlty of Tullamore,' while his café, The Coffee Club, received a succession of negative Facebook reviews from disgruntled listeners.
You can listen to the full exchange at the top of this article.
McNamara, who owns and runs The Coffee Club in Tullamore, said the only regret he has from his explosive appearance on the Radio 1 show was the comments made to a pensioner who had called in to tackle his attitude.
Tom made the comments while speaking to Seamus Duke, who was filling in for Will Faulker on his daily Midlands 103 show on Thursday morning.
"The only regret I have is regarding the gentleman who was 71 years of age. My comments to him I do regret but nothing else," the former Texas Tullamore owner said.
Tom had said 71-year-old Brian "sounded like a leecher," asking him why he wasn't at work, and accusing him of being on the dole. He made the comments without knowing the caller's age or situation and expressed regret over that on Thursday.
Speaking about his now infamous "drop dead" comment, made to a caller, Judith, who also called in to complain about his attitude and representation of the service industry, Tom was defiant.
"That lady Judith who came on and called me an ignoramus and everything else, I was entitled to tell her to drop dead, was I supposed to sit there and take it?" he said.
"I speak my mind. I am very loyal and respectable to all my customers and my customers are loyal to me, but if someone is disrespectful to me, I'm certainly not going to be respectful to them," he continued.
McNamara once again vented his frustration at the 4.5% Budget 2019 increase in the VAT rate for the hospitality sector, stressing that it will have a detrimental effect on businesses like his café, especially in rural Ireland.
Speaking about the initial interaction with Anne from Tullamore on Liveline, Tom said, "I'm standing by what happened." He again denied that he had a conversation with Anne in his café over a stir-fry price increase where he pointed to the VAT increase as the reason for the hike.
On Liveline, he said Anne "imagined" what had happened and been said during that visit to the Coffee Club where she claims she had been a regular.
Speaking about the budget, he questioned why a 4.5% VAT increase ha been imposed on eating "while just a 1% increase from 1% to 2% had been put on gambling in the Budget." McNamara attested to his comment that he may have to lose a member of his 10-strong staff because of the increase.
Concluding, Tom said he doesn't believe business will be affected by the Liveline controversy. "I might lose one or two but I know I will gain more," he said.