“Good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub”- Ulysses

Colm Lawless

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Temple bar - photo credit Sebastian Dooris (flickr)
Temple Bar – photo credit Sebastian Dooris (Flickr)

The Irish pub, what does it have to offer? Or more to the point what does it have to offer for the many generations that pass through its doors. At any point three generations could be in the same pub at the one time. The grandparents, the parents and the children. Every pub in Ireland still has one selling point, uniqueness. Irish pubs are like handmade jumpers, you’ll never find one the same. I’m sure I could have found a better analogy but you get the idea. Almost every pub in Ireland is unique.

What do pubs offer? Most local pubs are a social hub for the community to gather and catch up on all sorts of gossip in the town or to meet for social clubs such as golf, soccer etc. “Pub culture is very important to men, particularly as their roles are challenged in modern society, often by women . . . where else, if not to the pub, have many men to go to relax? (psychiatrist Patricia Casey)”.

In general, we Irish don’t tip our bar-staff, unless we’re in a hotel or a bar with waiting staff.  Perhaps this is because we know the staff very well? Irish pubs have taken a beating from RTE’s ‘The Savage eye (contains strong language) showing their flaws and how some of the punters are depressed and fed up of their families and just desperate for attention. The satirical comedy also shine a light on the so called hierarchy within an Irish pub. To a certain degree this maybe true but it is not set in concrete. What I mean by hierarchy is, the locals are treated like a type of royalty. Their names might not be on the seats but everyone has their own corner or table at the bar and if you were a tourist or just not from the village you would probably be told by the bar staff to find an alternative seat, as the bar staff want to keep the regulars happy.

Photo Credit - William Murphy - Flickr
Photo Credit – William Murphy – Flickr

How do different generations socialise? From my own experience, I notice the older generation generally just go to the pub for company and nostalgia and perhaps to hear how the local team got on at yesterday’s match, whether it is GAA or soccer.  I think Irish families have come a long way since my parents were young, so that’s a few years at least. I look around nowadays and the pub is filled with families on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The pub seems to be a popular place now among the older teens (late teens early 20’s) or college groups tend to gather to watch football and have a few quiet drinks. After all it is cheaper than paying for Sky Sports. Then we have the middle generation who after a hard day’s work  stop off on the way home or on a Sunday afternoon whilst diner is cooking at home to head down to catch the second half of the Sunday Game.

My local pub? Well until two years ago I had five pubs within the space of a few miles to choose from but due to running costs and licence fees that number has been reduced to only two pubs. Out of the two only one has capitalised on the closures by charging reasonable prices and focusing more on the local attendees rather than tourism. This is very noticeable in the informality in relations between the bar staff and the punters, the way each member of staff behind the bar knows your name and if they are not new on the scene probably know you from a young age. The smoking ban played a huge factor when the other three pubs shut down, with only one of the remaining two having a beer-garden it’s easy to see where the smokers would chose. The pub in the heart of the village enjoys the advantage of being right in the middle of the community.

 

Irish pubs are simply popping up all over the world now, especially in areas where the Irish international population exist such as America, Australia, Canada and one of Spain’s many islands… Whenever I go away on holidays I notice a lot of “traditional” Irish bars that accommodate the Irish population of that region. I have found that foreign Irish pubs tend to go over-board with the name of the pub though, like ‘The Michael Collins or Durty Nelly’s‘.

One other thing nearly every pub in Ireland can credit itself is, that they are all independently owned and not chain run by any major companies meaning all profits stay local and go back into the community or even just the pub itself in improving it and hiring more staff to keep up with local demand.

After the cool down of the month of April, St. Patrick’s day and Easter we are heading into summer time, when pubs will be reopening the beer gardens and hopefully increasing both local and non-local interest.

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Colm Lawless