Fake Irish Pubs

Status: Ersatz Irishness
Perfectly timed for St. Patrick's Day, Austin Kelley has an interesting article in Slate.com about the faux Irish pub revolution... i.e. how Irish pubs slapped together with off-the-shelf charm and quaintness have been popping up in cities all over the world. The term I've heard to describe this phenomenon (which Kelley doesn't mention) is To Irishise, meaning to transform a bar, with the help of interior design specialists, into a fake Irish pub. Kelley traces the roots of this phenomenon back to 1991, when Dublin-based IPCo started to aggressively export the "Irish Pub Concept" around the world. Nowadays would-be Irish pub owners can choose from a variety of pre-packaged styles: the "Country Cottage," the "Gaelic," the "Traditional Pub Shop," or the "Brewery":

IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilà! Ireland arrives in Dubai. (IPCo has built several pubs and a mock village there.)

The irony here, as Kelley points out, is that Ireland is exporting a kind of quaintness that never quite existed in Ireland itself... but these very same pre-packaged Irish pubs are now being built in Ireland itself, alongside (and often crowding out) the real, authentic Irish pubs. The fake replaces the real.

But I have to admit that I'm guilty of frequenting some fake Irish pubs here in San Diego. After all, the decor may be fake, but the Guinness and boxty and corned beef still taste pretty good.

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Posted on Fri Mar 17, 2006


I remember imitation Irish pubs in Texas (which compared with other U.S. states, is relatively short of Irish people) as far back as the 1970s, so the trend isn't new, it's just more aggressively marketed and perhaps being more concentrated in the hands of one or a few companies (but what isn't?).
Posted by Big Gary in Heavener, Oklahoma  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  02:11 PM
So... what defines a "real" Irish pub? Does it have to be in Ireland?
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  03:36 PM
The great thing about this is, my Sicilian wife with the Irish name and red hair always has a place to work. Heh.
Posted by SicTim  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  04:57 PM
What a sham...rock.
Posted by Citizen Premier  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  06:22 PM
I don't get it - is this like Bennigan's or something?

I have an Irish Pub near my house that's been around since the 70s..Fox & Hound's Irish Pub. They just look like a bar inside.
Posted by Maegan  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  09:10 PM
We have a couple of Irish pubs in Perth that have been around for years. They're not much different from normal pubs except for a bit of furniture (wooden benches and chairs) and the names, Paddy O'Hannons and Rosy O'Grady's are the best known.
Posted by Nettie  on  Sat Mar 18, 2006  at  12:48 AM
There are many legitimate Irish pubs around the New England area...One is an interesting reversal of the commercial monstrosities mentioned above. Called Ri-Ra and located in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island it is an actual Irish pub. Originally named Lavin's and built in the town of Swinford on the west coast of Ireland in the year 1889. In 1998, they moved the entire structure to it's current location.

sorry, that sounds a bit like a commercial but I thought it was interesting.
Posted by Chuck  on  Sat Mar 18, 2006  at  05:56 PM
Sounds a bit like "mexican" restaurants, which have a style of decor all their own, and not much like real Mexican restaurants.
Posted by cvirtue  on  Sun Mar 19, 2006  at  12:05 AM
...I dunno. I was in a place (in Florida) called Estella's. It was just a like a place I went to in Mexico. It's the national places that end up not looking authentic. The privately owned/operated ones seem to look like the places in Mexico.
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Mar 19, 2006  at  08:29 AM
Fox and Hound is a sad example. They're all over the place and are really more of a sports bar. Even the food is normal American restraunt food, burgers, fries, etc.
Posted by Tru  on  Mon Mar 20, 2006  at  09:38 AM
A couple of years back (Before 2001), a company loosely connected with Guinness was created to build "authentic" Irish pubs in places from New York USA to Sydney AUS. They included stuff like road signs, fake peat fireplaces, the tulip and/or bubble type glassware, nitrogen tanks for the taps, and training for bartenders on how to draw a real pint. They even would train customers on how to wait for the pint of stout as it settled correctly.

Of course, most of this is as Irish as the Innisfree of the John Wayne movie "The Quiet Man", but it did raise the level of stout poured in the US for a while. But now you can get guinness in those g-d awfull bottles with the widgets that can be drunk straight from the bottle. Definitely not "Brilliant" and possibly the antithesis of the true Irish Pub.
Posted by mmarvi  on  Mon Mar 20, 2006  at  12:42 PM
One name: McSorley's.

It made me realize what is missing from every other Irish pub in the U.S.

Centuries of spilled beer and tobacco smoke layering everything, along with the layers and layers of old papers on the walls. It may have become yuppified since I was last there, though. (Like the rest of NYC.)

BTW, my dad still insists the place went to hell in the '70s, when they started letting women in. Heh.
Posted by SicTim  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  08:20 AM
ive been in loads of irish pubs around the world. and the only defining character is can they pull a decent pint of guiness. most cant, but alot of travelling paddys get work in these places so that increases your chances. incedentally the best pint i ever had abroad was in upsala sweeden in a sports bar run by some guys from bahrain
Posted by ken  on  Thu Mar 23, 2006  at  11:02 AM
Sorry but the only place to drink Guiness is Ireland - the stuff they sell there just tastes different from the stuff they export or brew elsewhere in the world.

On the same theme as the exporting of "Irish" pubs, I heard that the only reason that they hold a St Patrick's day parade in Dublin is for the American tourists - they never used to have one until the tourists started to ask why they didn't have one. Like most things the US version of St Patrick's day is nothing like the original version...
Posted by Nigel Pond  on  Mon Apr 03, 2006  at  12:20 PM
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