Jason Sheehen of Denver Westward tells us how to create a great Irish bar, and doesn’t get it far wrong. But if he wants a real taste of the “old country” as he calls it – I’ve always hated that phrase – he needs a few adjustments:
For a start, he lost credibility when he mentioned Harp. Harp is piss, the Budweiser/Fosters of Ireland. The only good thing Harp ever brought to this world is the “Pinta Harp and a packeta dates there Laurence” ad from the late eighties. Remember that?
Jameson isn’t bad but Black Bush from our friends north of the border is smoother, and Midleton Rare is the finest Irish whiskey on the… well, in Ireland. Personally I don’t think it should be allowed outside the country, but that could simply be naked greed. It’s all I drank at my wedding, but sure everyone else was buying!
Ampersanded pub names are British, not Irish. Ampersanded pub names IN Ireland are there because some British bastard named it, and we haven’t got around to changing it yet. Sure there’s no rush like. (Lenny Henry said it best when he described Ireland as a “cold Jamaica” and gave an example of an Irish fella ejected from the pub, horizontally, pint in hand, saying “ah sure I was leavin’ anyway”.)
Road, cigarette and drink signs are ok as long as they’re genuine. In particular the road sign, which has to be in miles – none of your new-fangled kilometers here please – and stolen and “exported” yourself, wrapped in bin bags. Plus of course they all have to be a bit dirty. As does everything in the bar, particularly the bartop itself. A slight stickiness on the tables adds realism.
“Irish music” needs to be clearer. Boyzone and Westlife are Irish ffs, and no self-respecting Irish man would listen to that twaddle. (Of course Irish women aren’t allowed in proper Irish bars, except perhaps for a half on Sundays after Mass.) U2, Thin Lizzy and Clannad are fine, with a few unknown Irish fellas on their own instruments in the corner on Saturdays night. The langer song is not fine. It’s shite.
On the food front it’s actually King crisps you want, plus a nearly empty card of Bacon Fries and a box of Cadburys Snacks. Purple ones, obviously; or Club bars if you can find them. (They have less chocolate so they’re cheaper. And nastier. ) If you want to draw in real Irish alcoholics, CrÃºibÃns are your only man.
Look, just go into the SpailpÃn FÃ¡nach in Cork and use that as a model. You’ll need to walk up to the Brown Derby for the CrÃºibÃns though.