East Side Tavern: Leeson St. Lower

Dublin, as most of you will probably have already noticed, is a city that was constructed on a bit of an ad-hoc basis. In the past we’ve alluded to the difference between the streets of Dublin and those of a city in the USA and these are many – we don’t do blocks, we don’t do symmetry, we barely do straight lines – and that’s ok, this is the way we like it. You see, we’ve decided to let logic form our assumption here that The East Side Tavern was so named due to the fact that it’s on the east side of St. Stephen’s Green. But the thing is, St. Stephen’s Green is not a space whose boundaries are aligned in accordance with the four major points on a compass, so it’s sort of on the South-eastern side of the green. But South-eastern Side Tavern doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, now does it?

This one we’re coming at with plenty of disappointment, because we’ve just found out in the last few days that The East Side Tavern has closed permanently. About a week or so ago. And we’re raging. Because it wasn’t all that bad of a boozer.  Set in a building that has been guised under a few different monikers over the last decade or so, it was a pub that we thought had finally broken the curse and managed to dig its heels in. Unfortunately not so.

Comprising of a modern sort of aesthetic it boasted a mix of high and low seating which could have stood (or sat) to have been a bit more comfortable. There was a bit of exposed brick around the place which wasn’t too unkind to the eye and dark wood was the order of the day elsewhere. The talking point of the pub, however, was the wall of bottles which adorned the back of the bar – stretching to the height of the ceiling these were lit in such an accentuating manner that to gaze upon them was to feel you were gawking directly at the face of the almighty, well after a few scoops anyway. Speaking of the scoops, we last visited over the summer and found the pint to be as good as the one in Hartigan’s and at an even fiver was a full ten cent cheaper than Harto’s too.

Years ago, when the pub was known under a previous name we happened to find ourselves in for a few pints following a Damien Dempsey gig in The National Concert Hall. We were about a pint and half in when we began to notice members of the large ensemble, who had performed on the night, file into the boozer and make their way upstairs. Feeling a bit brazen from the evening’s pints, as a whole, we thought we’d wander up and have a look ourselves.

Arriving unimpeded up on to the first floor of the building, Pintman № 5 and I made straight toward the only vacant table left in the room. Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you a little bit about Pintman №5. A textbook definition of a man before his time, Pintman №5, who penned our post on Chaser’s of Ballyfermot, has been taxi-ing drunken hordes of Dubliners home from their evening’s debauchery since his mid-twenties. Speaking exclusively in a rare Hiberno-English dialect which blends rhyming slang and dead colloquialisms – he’s the type of man that comes along to the pub to see your mates’ covers band and shouts up requests for ‘Óró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ amidst all the calls for Thin Lizzy and The Beatles. And no, that’s no hypothetical or fictional scenario – Pintman №5’s vocal penchant for this War of Independence rebel anthem became such a mainstay of these aforementioned gigs that random punters even took to requesting the tune in Pintman № 5’s absence.

It didn’t take particularly long on this evening for us to have found the vacant space at our table filled up with the later arrivals to the after-party. Turning to see who had sat down beside us, we immediately realised that we had then been joined by Kerry Trad Legend – Seamus Begley. Accordion in his lap and the lot. Seamus, as it turns out, is a gem of a fella – and sat with us for the guts of an hour swapping stories and jokes. In the midst of all this gaiety at our own table we came to realise that the inevitable seisún had begun in earnest for the rest of the room and more inevitable again we found Seamus leaving our table, having been accosted to play a tune.

Obligingly, he took to the centre of the room and began knocking out a waltz on his accordion. This was received with applause that suggested he might play another. It’s no sooner than he has wondered aloud as to what he should play next that I can hear Pintman № 5’s sharp intake of breath followed by his booming voice bellowing out the familiar request of ‘ÓRÓ SÉ DO BHEATHA ‘BHAILE!’. Unfamiliar though, was the response this time around. Without missing a literal beat, Seamus Begley turns on his heels and begins a rousing rendition of the song, the chorus of which, is fervently sang by the attentive and talented audience. I’ve never seen Pintman №5 so elated. Before and since. And even better again, we’ve never heard a request for Óró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile since.

It’s always bad when a boozer shuts up shop, and we’re most certainly sad to see this one call last orders. Hopefully there’ll be more to come from No. 104 Leeson St. Lwr in the months or years to come.

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