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We used to live like lords. We’d roam freely from bar to bar, marching to the beat of the filthy change that jingled about in our arse pockets. We’d wade through packed pub gangways searching for seats that weren’t available. We’d cling to the bar and press the flesh with any hand, outstretched in our general direction. Sweaty in summer and sniffly in winter, we’d embrace friends and strangers with equal disregard for personal space. We’d breathe each other’s air, taste each other’s drinks and smoke each other’s smokes. We never booked ahead and we’d eat, only when we’d had our fill. Sometimes we wouldn’t eat at all.

We used to live like lords.

If you could possibly indulge me, I’d like to continue with a cliché. And this one has been uttered aplenty in various forms of expression, both artistic and not: But! You really just don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. And us: we lost it all. I’m sat here a mere couple of days before some of our city’s pubs will reopen their doors and allow customers upon their premises for the first time in over three months. But now all is changed, changed utterly. Not only is a terrible beauty born, it’s also walking, talking and getting ready to go to pre-school.

We’re told that there’ll be plexiglass – walls of the stuff. There’ll also be time limits, mandatory food orders, table service, queues and all sorts of other measures, the sum of which are required in order to allow pubs open once again. It seems that spontaneity, the very essence of the magic that is the Dublin pub experience, is the one which is the most helpful to the spread of COVID-19.

We’ve chosen to use our piece on The Bankers as that which will include a bit of a COVID-19 spiel for a few reasons. Mainly because the pub has been in the media over the last few weeks – showing off the modifications, newly installed within, to deal with a socially distant customer base. It’s also the second to last pub that I happened to imbibe in before the great shutdown in March. And with all that’s gone on, I have to admit that I’m left with something of a newfound fondness and gratefulness for the place.

I think it’s a fair thing to say that one can have little doubt in their mind when they state that, at some point in history, a banker was a person whom one could aspire to – a pillar of the community, even. But another thing that requires little doubt is the fact that whichever particular moment in time that this was, it is certainly now dead and gone. Ask anyone of my ilk, who had the delight of trying to begin their professional life back when Brian Lenihan was popping cloves of garlic like panadol in celebrity economists’ kitchens, what their estimation of Bankers are and I could almost promise you a response that will be as critical as it will be laden with profanity. So you might say, the name above the door of this particular pub isn’t one that has really ever had much appeal to my generation and me.

But what’s in a name? I hear you and Juliet ask. If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, well then a pub by any other name must surely be just as much craic. And yourself and Juliet would be correct, this pub’s name is inconsequential to its actual appeal. Once you’ve stepped inside the cosy confines of The Bankers, you’ll find that any thoughts you previously held of bludgeoning bondholders will find themselves calmly assuaged by the charm of this pokey little boozer.

Jutting, angularly, out onto Trinity street to give way to Dame Lane, The Bankers is a pub that has no shortage of footfall outside – an attribute which affords the pub one of its finest features – its people-watching real estate. Dublin has several excellent pint-proximate people-watching spots and the front of The Bankers is undoubtedly on par with the likes the front window in The Long Hall.

The Bankers would easily be categorised as a small pub, relative to those about town. It’s comprised of two main sections – a low seating area toward the back and a high seating area at the front, this being the one that houses the bar. The bar, though compact, seemed to offer a good degree of choice the last time we were in. Covered in all sorts of denominations of foreign bills, a craft-thirsty Pintman №7 was happy to retrieve a pint of Wicklow Wolf from it.

Pintman №2 and I stuck to the usual pint of plain on that occasion back in March, which rang in at a price of €5.50. And a grand pour it was too.

The streetlamp style signs we like, as seen in Fallon’s

The pub itself is a dark enough space, mainly down to the stone tiled floor and the dark wood throughout. Thankfully though, the artificial lighting used to countenance such darkness tends to be at a good level. The interior is decorated with the usual trinkets and ephemera you’d see around the pubs in town and was noted to be the better of the few cabinets around the place, all of which were full with illuminated whiskey bottles. We also noted that they have those streetlamp style signs that advertise both Guinness and Smithwicks, the same as can be seen in Fallon’s, we like them. The back section of the bar struck a bit of a different look, it being adorned with a large scale mural featuring a myriad of famous Irish faces and quotes inscribed alongside.

The pub offers a full food menu, too, and with being so central it certainly has an eye on the tourist trade. Alike others that do, we noted that the lounge staff could tend to be a bit over-exuberant when it came to glass collection and their insistence on us making use of table service, though this will probably stand to them now.

While The Bankers is a fine little pub, I’m not going to pretend that it was always one that I held any sort of a grá for. But we live in strange times. I was talking to a few friends a while back about what the last pubs we visited before lockdown were and how, through one terrible way or another, they could be the last that we would ever visit. And when I listed and thought of the last three I visited on the final day I was on the pints, pre-lockdown – The Palace, The Bankers and Lannigan’s – I thought to myself, in a sort of pub life flashing before your eyes sort of way, that I’ve no regrets here. I didn’t waste my last ones. Time well spent.

Anyhow, we’re definitely prone to a bit of hyperbole here, so you might forgive our sorrowful tone about the new normal at the start of this piece. The video of The Bankers’ new setup looks grand. Look them up and check it out. We’re definitely gonna book a table.

Sitting directly across from City Hall on the corner of the historic promenade of Dame Street and the equally historic Crane Lane, The Oak is a pub I must start by admitting to you that I’ve never spent an awful lot of time in. Nowadays I’m reasonably happy enough to admit that the reasons for this are probably a bit nuanced and snobbish, but way back when I was a young naive pintboy in training the cause of this was far more primal.

I can tell you now, with all these years of hindsight under my belt, that my reticence toward frequenting this particular bar back then was a textbook case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’. You see, I was at that impressionable stage of life where one finds themselves at a crossroads, that delicate hour where it becomes time to take up the mantle laid by generations gone before. It was time to start drinking pints of stout.

So with cautious abandon, I began dipping my toe in the proverbial dark ruby sea and set about acquiring a taste for this seemingly unassailable brew. But alas when I chose The Oak as my dispenser of same I found myself to fall afoul of the dreaded ‘bad pint’.

It’s all good and well nowadays with scores of vans servicing the pubs of the city with regard to their stout-pouring apparatus, but before this was widespread practice a bad pint wasn’t one where the taste was a little off, or the head was too thin. A bad pint back then was something that attacked you with a severity synonymous to that of salmonella. I dare say that this unlucky order may well have set my acclimatisation to Guinness off course by a good 12 months or so.

The Oak, in its current guise is a far larger premises than it originally once was given that it is now comprised of the original pub and the adjoining building which sits on the corner of Parliament and Dame St. This larger part of the complex was previously called Thomas Read’s, a name it took from its neighbour (which was once of Dublin’s oldest shops) and was accessible from the original pub for as long as this author’s memory will stretch. This section is fairly plush and continental and isn’t really of concern to us in this article. The main bar, the original Oak is the space in particular to which we refer here. Having been tarted up in recent years with some new fittings, furniture and a good dollop of red velvet, the bar is looking a good bit more upscale than it once did. What remains as part of the bar though are the Oak panels which gave it its name. These unassuming pieces of wood, believe it or not, have probably crossed the Atlantic more times than you’ve crossed O Connell Street given that they were installed in the bar after being salvaged from the ocean liner The RMS Mauretania after it was decommissioned in 1934.

Thankfully nowadays the pint is much improved from that which I tried to cut my teeth with back in the day. Not the greatest in the area but not the worst either. Unfortunately, none of us happens to remember the price tag on the pint in there. The last time I ventured into the place was in the wee hours a Christmas or two ago and with a sheet or two toward the gales. I’m not ashamed to admit that my only abiding memory of this evening was of talking to an Irish celebrity gardener who was far gone in G&Ts and speaking exclusively in posh, soutside-sounding mumbles about rare geraniums and the like.

It’s not a pub we could fault too greatly though. Its newfound grandeur might unconsciously send us looking for somewhere a bit more threadbare, and its proximity to The Lord Edward certainly leaves it the less of our concern on the often, but it’s definitely not somewhere we’d advise you avoid.

Fair play to the gaffer. Most of you probably didn’t know that Dublin By Pub is sponsored by my employers, I mean – how could you, when they don’t even know themselves? But I would like to take this opportunity to thank my superiors for having not copped that I’ve spent the last day and a half conducting frantic research on the topic of the public house in situ at No. 15 Suffolk Street, Dublin from my desk. In work. On company time. Honestly, I’d name them for the bit of advertising here if I didn’t think that it’d get me sacked.

Now I’d love to sit here and tell you that this abovementioned research bore fruit other than my continuing gladness that I decided to make this page an anonymous entity, but unfortunately my limited research has gotten the better of me here – there are just too many loose ends. But on the topic of the history of the pub pictured, I do know the following:

  • It was once known as Slattery’s and was so at the turn of the 20th century, and indeed it’s mentioned in Ulysses as such.
  • The next record of the pub I found was an advert in a copy of a student paper – The Trinity News. Dated in 1962, the paper carries an advert for 15 Suffolk Street which gives three separate names and states: “MOYLANS late O’Donoghues |The Grafton | Stockists of The Choicest and Best Wines and Liqueurs”.
  • After that, I found a pub crawl feature in the same publication from 1970, some eight or so years later. Here the pub is referred to as Slattery’s as well as The Suffolk House and is described in the article as “many things to many men and the few insane though sober females that lurk here regularly”.
  • Before its current incarnation, the pub was named The Thing Mote, after the same type of Viking structure which sat in the Suffolk street district back when Dublin was just a nipper.

I’ll leave it you yourself to cobble together the history of this boozer, I think in the meantime I need to register with The National Library or put out an appeal for someone to lend me a complete set of Dublin directories for the last hundred or so years. Anyway, on with the pub in its current guise.

A small to medium sized boozer, O’Donoghues is widest at the front with the pub closing in at acute angles toward its rear wall. A raised section is installed at the end of the space and is more often than not used as a stage. Seating is minimal – when unused by performers, the raised section makes use of traditional low tables and stools while the unraised section exclusively contains high seating along the ledges and few high tables.

Now I’ve often decried the layout of this boozer, and Pintman №2 and №3 will argue that I’m just being too picky when I reckon that the Feng Shui of the pub just isn’t right and that the lighting is just a bit too low – and to be fair to them I probably am. The lads reckon that the craic we’ve had in here over the years supersedes any negative impact to be garnered from bad table placement and overused dimmer switches – and they’re probably right there again because we’ve had some serious craic in here.

Our experiences of the pub, having been entirely of the after-dark variety, may be different to others – but to us, this is no pub for a quiet chat. This is our go-to boozer for singing your head off whilst wedged into a crowd of strangers. The crowd is a healthy mix of tourists, dubs and countrymen & women and is usually busy enough. Service is generally well equipped to deal with the crowds and none of us has ever had cause to query or return any pints we’ve had there. Upon our last visit at the end of 2018 we parted with the sum of €5.50 for a pint which is unfortunately in line with the higher prices typical of the locality.

Recently the pub has been in the media over its involvement in litigation regarding financial matters. The content of the article is so full of technical financial shite-talk that a layperson, such as me, couldn’t decipher what in the name of lantern jaysis is going on – but it didn’t sound too good. So, who knows? We could see another name on the front of 15 Suffolk St in the months and years to come. And let’s just pray, that whatever happens, it’s that of a publican.

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 gaybar. 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 which 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 feed 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 who’s 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 appeant 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 which institutionally heaped scorn and stigma upon those who identified as LGBTQ. Thankfully though, prejudices as 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?

It was in a local pub a few years ago and just as the final notes of Amhrán Na bhFiann rang out from a battered old Yamaha that I found myself in a bit of a troubling situation. Having become somewhat hemmed into the corner of one of the pub’s alcoves, I’d wound up at the barrel end of a barrage of threats from some coked-up little head-the-ball who had wasted little time in informing me of his strong connections to republican socialist republican paramilitaries – The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Given that it was after last orders, it’d be handy enough just to blame the gargle and the time of night. But the thing is that ever since my early teens, and up to the present day, I’ve always been reminded by both of my parent’s – together and separately – that my ‘big mouth’ will get me ‘in trouble one of these days.’ So therefore, I’d have to put my overlooking of the fact that the INLA had disbanded in 2009 down to the distraction that had resulted from the sheer irony of having gotten myself ‘in trouble’ while engaging in an act of pacifism.

What lead me to this point could probably be construed as an unpopular opinion, for you see, over the years I’ve come to acquire a personal distaste toward the practice of rolling out of our national anthem to celebrate a night of drinking and sub-par entertainment. We’re not currently at war, there’s no overwhelming need to be bolstering national pride! Appending the national anthem to events of such mundanity as a few local pints only serves to denigrate its integrity – you’re not engulfed in the roar of cannons or the peal of rifles and the only bhearna bhaoil likely to be encountered after eight pints down the local will be little more than a few digs thrown outside a chipper. So when some one-man-band calls last orders and queues up their Amhrán Na bhFiann backing track you’ll likely find me in a state of respectful abstention. And this is what aggrieved my newly acquired INLA contact.

Thankfully the gift of the gab was well lubricated at this particular hour and the hostile situation was easily diffused and made a friendlier one – once the above argument was made and peppered with plenty of continuity republican sentiment, that is. I even got the opportunity to impart some knowledge onto the inebriated would-be liberator by telling him that the national anthem was originally written in English by one Peadar Kearney – a name he knew only from the Dame St. pub.

According to their website, Peadar Kearney’s is so named due to the fact that the great man himself once dwelled within the walls that now house the pub. This was a claim that we could neither confirm nor contradict with google. Sitting on the fringes of the tourist chaos that Temple Bar entails, the pub is one that’s decorated traditionally. Alike it’s neighbouring boozer: Brogan’s, retro Guinness adds are de rigueur with respect to the pictures about the wall – these share space with mirrors branded with different whiskeys, local road signs, a portrait of a boxer and most notably – two jockey’s outfits enclosed in a glass case. All of which we neglected to obtain the significance of, if any.

A small to medium sized pub, it could be categorised with many others in the city in the way that a relatively narrow corridor comes to open up toward the rear of the space. Seating is untraditional and makes use of large barrels, flanked by high stools, in lieu of the usual table set up.

The pint was of a high standard and hit the wallet for €5.30 which admittedly was on the lower side of our both mine and Pintman №2’s estimates – both of which took more than enough influence from the pub’s proximity to Temple Bar. The barman was sound and plenty competent too. We found reason also to note the variance in the music being piped in which started well with some Deep Purple and had descended into that plastic-paddy genre of ba***dized classics by the time we were leaving. Pintman № said he would have preferred to hear the commentary on the match at the time.

Being entirely honest, we couldn’t say that we disliked Peadar Kearney’s, but by that same virtue we did note that we couldn’t shake the feeling of it being a bit more geared towards tourists. This ultimately means that we’d likely not spend too significant an amount of time on the pints in here, but we’d certainly not avoid it altogether.