Public houses in Ireland

Public houses in Ireland

Public houses in Ireland, usually known as pubs, are establishments licensed to serve alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises. Irish pubs are known for their atmosphere or "craic". [ [ What's the Craic? ] ]

pirit Grocers

Prior to the 1960s and the arrival of supermarket and grocery chain stores in the country Irish pubs usually operated as a 'Spirit grocery', combining the running of pub with a grocery, hardware or other ancillary business on the same premises (in some cases, publicans also acted as , Morrisey's, is representative of the traditional spirit grocers.

Spirit groceries first appeared in the mid 18th century, when a growing temperance movement in Ireland forced publicans to diversify their businesses to compensate for declining spirit sales. With the arrival of increased competition in the retail sector, many pubs lost the retail end of their business and concentrated solely on the licensed trade. Many pubs in Ireland still resemble grocer's shops of the 19th century, with the bar counter and rear shelving taking up the majority of the space in the main bar area, apparently leaving little room for customers. This seemingly counter-productive arrangement is a design artefact dating from prior operation as a spirit grocery, and also accounts for the differing external appearance of English & Irish Pubs. Spirit Grocers in Northern Ireland were forced to choose between either the retail or the licensed trades upon the partition of Ireland in 1922, and this pub type can no longer be found in the North.


In contrast to England, Ireland's pubs usually bear the name of the current or a previous owner, e.g. "Murphy's" or "O'Connor's", and traditional pub names are absent. Famous traditional pubs in Dublin which have the characteristics outlined above include "O'Donoghue's", Mulligan's, "Doheny & Nesbitt's" & the "Brazen Head", which bills itself as Ireland's oldest pub (a distinction actually held by Sean's Bar in Athlone). Some pubs are named after famous streets such Sober Lane in Cork which is named after Father Matthew's Hall of Abstinence. Individual pubs are also associated with famous Irish writers and poets such as Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and James Joyce.

Northern Ireland

Pubs in Northern Ireland are largely identical to their southern counterparts. A side effect of the 'Troubles' was that the lack of a tourist industry meant that a higher proportion of traditional bars have survived the wholesale refitting of Irish pub interiors in the English style in the 1950s and 1960s. This refitting was driven by the need to expand seating areas to accommodate the growing numbers of tourists, and was a direct consequence of the growing dependence of the Irish economy on tourism. Traditional pubs in Belfast include the National Trust's Crown Liquor Saloon, and the city's oldest bar, McHugh's. Outside Belfast, pubs such as the House of McDonnell in Ballycastle (a former spirit grocery retaining all the characteristics of the type) and Grace Neill's in Donaghadee are representative of the traditional country pub.

The pubs listed above are truly representative of the traditional Irish type (while some may have been expanded, the original bar areas have been retained in all cases), as few remain today after the extensive refitting noted above. The majority of 'traditional' pubs in Ireland today have been refurbished in a pastiche of the original style during the 1990s. Many Irish pubs were refurbished in this manner so as to increase their attractiveness to tourists by more closely resembling the 'Irish pubs' found outside Ireland; and thus have more in common with them (many were refurbished by the same outfitting companies) than the traditional pub type they purport to represent.

The sentimental image of Ireland held by many tourists and members of the Irish diaspora has also resulted in changes to the Irish pub experience in many areas. The notion that there is more live music in an Irish pub, and that a customer is more likely to entertain the assembly with a song is a myth created by the Irish tourist industry. Pubs of this type (so-called 'singing pubs') are more likely to be found in areas dependent on tourism such as the south-west of Ireland. These pubs are conspicuously absent in areas where tourism is not a major part of the local economy, such as the Midlands or border counties. 'Singing pubs' are also absent from Northern Ireland.

Pubs in tourist oriented areas are also more likely to serve food to their customers, a recent phenomenon dating from the 1970s. Prior to this time food was not served in the vast majority of Irish pubs, as eating out was uncommon in Ireland (except in "eating-houses" set up on market days) and most towns and villages had at least one commercial hotel where food was available throughout the day [ [ Culinary Odyssey ] ] . The provision of meals in pubs since this time is largely the result of an effort by Irish publicans to capture the tourist eating trade. The majority of traditional rural pubs not on the major tourist trails do not serve food; while traditional bars in urban areas such as Dublin, Armagh, Galway, and Sligo have responded to the increase in Irish people eating outside the home (a by-product of so called 'Celtic Tiger' economy during the 1990s); and now provide meals throughout the day.

Following the smoking ban in the Republic many pubs offer enclosed and often heated outdoor smoking areas. While many people object, the greater majority of people appear content with the legislation, which came into effect in Northern Ireland in April 2007.

Irish Pubs have been opened throughout the world, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, from Boston to Frankfurt, Johannesburg to Beijing. They generally have a lot in common with pubs in Ireland, but there are many pretenders as well.

The vast majority of pubs in Ireland are independently owned and licensed, or owned by a chain that does not have any brewery involvement, generally meaning that nearly every pub sells a similar but extensive range of products. Some microbreweries operate their own pubs or chains of pubs, where the range is more limited, with only their own products and a few others.

Compared to the UK

There are many differences between Irish pubs and their UK counterparts. There is usually a far greater selection of draught beer or beer varieties "on tap" in Ireland. "Bitter" ale is very hard to find in Ireland. Most pubs are independently owned and operated by either a publican or a leaseholder, whereas in the UK, pubs are often owned by a brewery. Larger Irish pubs usually have a lounge area where waiting staff or "lounge staff" take drink orders rather than the customer going to the bar themselves. There is almost always a higher price for drinks served in the lounge. Close scrutiny will reveal that pub frontages are generally plainer and less ornamented than their British counterparts, and hanging signs are absent, with the name of the pub or proprietor being displayed above the door. In Irish, a pub is referred to as "teach tábhairne" ("tavern-house") or "teach [an] óil" ("house of drink").




*"The World of the Tavern: Public Houses in Early Modern Europe", Beat A. Kumin and Ann Tlusty, Ashgate (2002), ISBN0754603415
*"In Search of the Craic: One Man's Pub Crawl Through Irish Music", Colin Irwin, Andre Deutsch (2004), ISBN 023300095X

External links

* [ Gaelic Inns - History of Irish & English Pubs]

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