Conor Pope has an interesting piece in the Irish Times here about the possible demise of the Irish pub. Now, those of you who know me will know that this would be be an area I don’t know a lot about: I don’t drink, and I am possibly the only man in Dublin who, when told “I’ll meet you in O’Malleys/Hartigans/Shaughnessys” I get looks of incredulity when I ask “Where’s that?” I don’t drink, and so I just don’t go to pubs anywhere near as much as my peers. On top of that, as I age my peers are having kids, getting married, buying homes, and so entertaining at home is becoming a much bigger feature of my social life.
Yet I’d be saddened to see the demise of the pub, because I have had great times in pubs. Upstairs in Neary’s in Chatham Street, a haunt introduced to me by one of the brothers (Who uses up my pub quota with gusto), with its little or no music and comfy seats is a great place for mates to go not to get trollied but to pontificate the great issues of the day (Politics, movies, books, music and Kelly Brook Vs Jessica Biel) and laugh the way you laughed when you were a teenager.
I find it depressing that the VFI’s response to the issue, and it is a serious issue, is to force people back into pubs by stopping them drinking cheaply elsewhere. In other words, a Shannon Stopover approach to drink. What is it about us as a people that our gut response is never to discuss how to make something more attractive, but to try and kill the thing that actually is more attractive? It’s the Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction approach. And don’t get me started on the whining about drink driving enforcement. The VFI sound at times like the NRA after a shooting: It’s not drink that causes drunk people in cars to crash killing themselves or others, it’s the road surface/gravity/solar radiation.
What would it take to get me to go to a pub more? My tastes are different. I like a pub where you can have a conversation, where you can settle in a snug for the evening (or even book them?), where it isn’t the equivalent of a Tokyo train at rush hour when you are trying to get to the bar, and where you can get a bit of grub to the table that isn’t just deep-fried. And as for the smoking ban, it’s here and I think politicians would have a bigger fight getting rid of it than bringing it in. I’m glad not to stink leaving a pub, and I doubt I’d go into a pub again if it were scrapped, and I suspect there are even a lot of smokers who would agree. Having said that, smokers are people too, and some pubs do make a better effort to accommodate them than others.
The Irish pub is worth saving, but with love, not coercion.