Did you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone in or around town where you might be talking about one pub or another? One of those conversations where you wind up delving deeper into the topic and end up discussing pubs in general. And you might be ten or fifteen minutes in when the person with whom you are conversing might turn around and ask you if ‘ ye ever drink in Mulligans at all?’ and before you get a chance to respond, the question will quickly be suffixed with a proclamation that ‘that place is a fuckin’ institution’. And of course you’ll tell them that you have, and agree that, yes, it is. But then you might wonder later on, or a few days after, if it really is an institute – and if it is, why?
The George is a pub that will leave you with no such quandaries. Established in 1985, a full eight years prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Republic of Ireland, it is Dublin’s longest-running and operational gay bar. A mecca for Dublin and indeed Ireland’s LGBTQ community – it’s a boozer that can unequivocally be described as a living, breathing, bona fide institution.
The George, in its entirety, is a sprawling multi-levelled space that plays host to karaoke, drag shows, bingo and plenty of other LGBTQ friendly activities. When we last visited – we found ourselves a bit early for all of that, so we opted instead to make our way into the side bar for a pint. The bar (which is actually the original pub) is now, in homage to a former long-serving member of staff, known as Bridie’s Bar and is, according to some light research, colloquially referred to as ‘Jurassic’ by some locals – someone in the comments might enlighten us on this one. (Named so due to its housing of older clientele – thanks to @fionarhw on Instagram for a swift response there)
On a Sunday afternoon, we find Bridie’s to be busy enough such that we have to settle for standing space. Carving out a few square feet toward the far end of the room, we find the atmosphere to be a calm and friendly one and we’re engaged in conversation of the same manner by a few lads at the bar as we order a round. Our drinks are dispatched hastily by a competent barwoman whose seamless service of a sizeable enough crowd is noted separately by a few of us. Guinness clocks in at an even and reasonable €5 and is a good pour at that.
Looking at the design and layout of the bar, objectively, we find it has its hits and its misses. Appearing to have been the beneficiary of a relatively recent refurbishment, Pintman Nº2 and I find the time to indulge in a short argument over the wooden panelling behind the bar – him being against and me being impartial. We agreed that the Romanesque windows, topped with their flourishes of stained glass, were a nice touch but also come to agree that the two large pillars that sit parallel to the bar serve to break up the space more than we’d have liked them to.
Our visit passes off mostly without incident. At one stage someone, somewhere in the premises, presumably opens a door or flips a switch that they weren’t supposed to. A noisy alarm sounds and in the grand Irish tradition of ignoring alarms in pubs – everybody goes on about their business as the barwoman scrambles across the room to silence the alarm again. One or two of us can’t help but have a bit of a giggle when someone brings up the episode of the Simpsons where a functioning steel mill turns into an uber-gay dance club upon the sounding of the hometime klaxon.
I’m trying to wonder now whether or not it’s been apparent in all of the posts we’ve uploaded on DublinByPub thus far that we’re not members of the LGBTQ community. Presumably, it has. Hopefully, more apparent though, has been the fact that we most certainly espouse a policy of live and let live without judgement or prejudice. Of course, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t carry subconscious prejudices that come with an upbringing in a de facto theocracy that institutionally heaped scorn and stigma upon those who identified as LGBTQ. Thankfully though, prejudices like these can be challenged. And we can think of no better or more enjoyable way to challenge them than sinking a few pints in a friendly atmosphere of a Sunday afternoon. Give it a try sometime, won’t you?