A recent night out in Kinsale left local writer Adrienne Acton with a few thoughts on the evolution of the Irish pub and what could be done to ensure that it has a longer shelf life.
TAKE a trip down memory lane with me to the pub of the past. From Friday after work to closing time on Sunday evenings.
In they would arrive with their working clothes on. Painters and builders would fall over the threshold in a cloud of work-dust and park themselves on the first stool that came to hand. There they would remain until hunger drove them to the nearest chipper. The holy trinity of conversation – work, the weather and other people’s business – would keep the tongues active and the pints flowing.
The good clothes would be handed over by the mammy on Saturday afternoon in a trade for the fifty pounds that was considered a generous donation towards the housekeeping, and the ritual would start over again. Some would show their face for the first half of 7.30pm mass, and some would not.
By Sunday morning the same ‘good clothes’, porter stains and all, would be donned again and the hair of the dog would be partaken before the 1 o’clock news would signify that the spuds were surely ready.
And in the early 90s, a healthy wad of disposable cash for some – those that could build on family land and had the use of the mother’s car – meant they could carry on this lifestyle without fear of bankruptcy. But for most of us the car loan and saving for a mortgage meant at least one of the weekend days would be given over to abstinence.
The Sunday morning trip to the pub for the father of the house, once the sole ‘breadwinner’, became redundant, as the wife was now also holding down a full-time job and Sunday was his only chance to see the fruits of his loins, the two children.
Then there was the anti-tobacco brigade. Some fought this progress tooth and nail and refused point blank to stub it out. They didn’t last long. They didn’t need to.
Overnight the barna building out the back of the pub beside the beer barrels was converted to accommodate four stools and an ashtray. The lean-to wall was painted and a bucket was supplied for your smoking needs. Those that had the cash and a bit of vision created sensory and peaceful gardens for the lepers of society so they could puff away in comfort.
All of this effort meant that the only place to be in the pub anymore was out the back with the smokers as it was here and only here that the craic could be found.
All the non-smokers sat outside to enjoy good company swallowing more gulps of tobacco smoke than they ever did before the ban.
Look at where we are now. The death of the Irish pub is staring us in the face.
There are many that only open at the weekend as they can’t pay staff.
There are many that would have gone to the wall if they hadn’t started doing food.
And the drinking driving laws mean weekends are almost undistinguishable from any other night now.
I was recently out in my home town of Kinsale for an evening’s entertainment. There were four of us in the group and for various reasons we all had our cars with us, mainly because we needed to drive somewhere in the morning and couldn’t take a chance on having a pint or two.
All very sensible, you might think, but here’s my issue: All four of us asked for non-alcoholic beer and all four of us were given two options, option A or option A.
The non-alcoholic beer wasn’t kept in the chiller and so ice had to be added to make it palatable.
After two rounds the supply was running low and we had to find solace elsewhere where the options were again, beer A or beer A.
I find it hard to fathom why it is taking so long for the pub industry to acknowledge that non-alcoholic beverages are the way of the future.
We all want to feel like we’re in a social situation and many don’t feel comfortable having a mineral, so why the reluctance to cater to the mob?
Most of us have to bring a car with us, because that’s what modern life dictates, whether it is because the taxi service is too expensive or too unreliable, or because we need to be mobile in the mornings.
Why not make non-alcoholic beers, stouts and ciders an attractive option, both in supply and price? If the smokers were so ably catered for, then why not the non-drinkers?
Also, it must be remembered that this is the modern age where online dating is how people are meeting one another.
Every lady I know brings her car with her on a first date in case she has to climb out the loo window in horror after clapping eyes on the beast before her.
So, please, pull the finger out brewers and publicans. After all, a lady, on entering a bar, likes to be offered the stool, not watch someone fall off it.
Cork firm responds to demand
A CORK firm has also noticed the demand for alcohol-free options this Christmas.
BWG Foods Wholesale and Value Centre Cork sells hampers and other corporate gifts, and have set up an alcohol-free section in their wholesale stores, which they are calling ‘Zero Bar’ offering options in wine, prosecco, beer, cider and gin. Customers can choose from a range of alcohol-free drinks including Heineken 0.0, Estrella Galicia 0.0, Bulmers 0.0, Stiegl alcohol free and Peroni Libera 0.0.
‘Alcohol free range sales have increased 224% since last year, driven by the health and wellness trend, with the worldwide market for non-alcoholic beer projected to double to about more than €20bn by 2024, according to market research firm Global Market Insights,’ said a BWG spokesperson. ‘This stat infers the need and demand for alcohol-free options that still remind consumers of alcohol.’