Image credit: Gary Teeling
We and others in Dublin frequently refer to what could be called city centre ‘locals pubs’. But what is a locals pub? Isn’t every pub a local to someone? Well, it’s hard to define, but we’ll take a stab at it. Generally, as we would see it, locals pubs have a certain regular crowd that to an extent all know each other. They are usually located in areas of the city centre where there has been an established community and residential housing for many years. Areas like The Liberties and Stoneybatter come to mind. Most pubs would have a returning custom, but these locals pubs would cater mostly to the people that have grown up in the area and see the pub as a community centre of sorts.
We popped in to 3 such pubs around the city to have a chat with the owners and explore the idea of the locals pub.
The first of which was The Malt on James’ Street. I suppose it’s reasonably recently reopened, a year and a half or so under its current ownership. In the Malt we met Graham, who is running the place these days. He’s a local to the area, having been brought up in The Liberties and worked in several pubs in the area. He’s obviously excited by the venture and creating something of his own.
I had never been in The Malt before, so I didn’t know what to expect. It’s quite a pleasant place, with a convivial atmosphere. There’s the lads sitting at the bar watching some sports and the chef cleaning up after the lunch rush. And there was a rush. Before I had come in, a group of 20-30 French tourists had been in for their lunch. That’s two things you might not expect to see in a locals pub on Thomas Street; food and tourists. But times are very much changing. Graham has put a good bit of effort into putting together a menu that’s very affordable and covers a wide array of tastes. If tourists want to pop in on their way to the Guinness Storehouse or the soon to be opened Pearse Lyons Distillery, then they can have some smoked salmon on brown bread with a pint of Guinness only a few hundred metres from where it was brewed. That’s a selling point.
The food offering is full of Dublin favourites like Irish stew, Beef and Guinness casserole, coddle, and a very modestly priced €8.95 roast dinner on a Sunday.
There’s a good deal of history to the pub as well. There’s not much made of the fact yet, but the pub was mentioned in Ulysses when it was owned by a “Mr. Crimmins”. That’s surely something tourists and Dubliners would find of great interest.
The Malt, aside from its clientele, has all the hallmarks of a locals pub. There’s always something going on at night, usually live music.There’s a stage in the bar for musical performers to play some trad, oldies, or contemporary tunes. John Hopper, who is a familiar face on posters outside locals pubs around the city plays here, as does the Voice of Ireland winner Patrick James.
They’ve got a darts night that brings in a welcome midweek crowd. There’s loads of teams in the area, so a lot of James Street and Thomas Street pubs have dart boards. They’ve even got a long room especially for the darts that doubles up as a dining room during the day and party space at night.
The pub is situated in a great area to capitalise on the growing amount of tourists filtering through the area on the way to Guinness’ and the new distillery. They’ll surely get more tourist custom as a result, but I don’t think that will dilute the offering to locals at all.
After meeting with the enthusiastic Graham on James Street, we head towards Eamonn Rea’s on Parkgate Street. There we meet Ger, who has also recently taken over the running of the bar. He’s put a few quid into some renovations in the bar and it does look very well indeed. Rea’s on Parkgate Street is in good company, with Ryan’s and Nancy Hand’s completing the row of pubs on the street.
Rea’s is another locals pub that does capitalise on the passing tourist trade, with some popping in after an afternoon in the Phoenix Park on their way back to a local hotel. When we came in, Ger was giving some advice to 2 American tourists on where to go next. They seemed very pleased with the hospitality in the pub/tourist advice bureau.
They really do go in for the live entertainment in Eamonn Rea’s as well, and they managed to snare themselves one of the best pub musicians in the country at the weekend. Brian Brody is an amazing entertainer who plays “ballads and beyond” on Sundays from 9-11. He’s a very charming and welcoming man on stage, and any time we’ve seen him perform (which could be any night of the week) he always has enough energy to get any crowd going. He manages to interact with the crowd and command the room so as to include them in his act, which is a rare gift.
They’re looking into offering food in the future, but for now they’ve got the option of a pizza with your pint, which are flying out the door. Ger is trying to adapt the pub so that it’s well set into the future, and with the food, entertainment, and partial refurbishment, they’re looking good.
Image credit: Gary Teeling
Our final stop on the day was to pop into Peadar Brown’s on Clanbrassil Street, a spot we’d been meaning to visit for a while. Here we meet Aidan Brown, who’s running the pub. Aidan tells us that the pub is named after his father Peadar, who passed away a few years ago. That’s a beautiful way to remember and honour your father. Aidan wears a fleece with ‘Peadar Browns’ written on it, beside a caricature of his fathers face. Usually a new pub would take the name of a famous or historical figure from the area, but they’ve opted for a more personal touch.
Aidan tells us that if we were to be in the pub at night during the weekend, the place would be heaving with people in for a trad session. Aidan’s brother, Colin, sent us a video from a few weekends ago, and the place was indeed in full flying form. Again, we see that a locals pub puts a whole lot of effort into entertaining its punters. It’s not just about sharing a drink, but also about sharing a tune.
Peadar’s has also seen a few extra quid come into the pub in the form of visiting tourists. They’re well located as one of the closest pubs to the new Teeling distillery, so they benefit from a bit of trade from that. Aidan also tells us that there’s a lot of Air B’n’B in the area and that people who use that service are stopping by for a drink.
These are pubs that a lot of people might pass by without giving a lot of thought to, but they are very much an integral part of the cities pub infrastructure. A lot of us who live in the city centre do so temporarily and flight around the various excellent pubs the city has to offer. For some, the city centre is a permanent home with a permanent community. These, and other pubs like them, fulfill a vital role in the social life of those communities and their continuation in an ever changing Dublin.
You can find more info from the pubs facebook pages