Wednesday 28 June 2017

Coppers - the 'local disco' that became rite of passage

A bar in Coppers. Photo: Arthur Carron
A bar in Coppers. Photo: Arthur Carron
Darren Power. Photo: Arthur Carron
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

When former Dublin footballer Bryan Cullen uttered the immortal words "See you all in Coppers" as he hoisted the Sam Maguire Cup at Croke Park in 2011, he wasn't kidding.

More than four years on, it seems players of all kinds are still going GAA GAA for Ireland's most famous - or maybe 'infamous' - nightclub, Copper Face Jacks.

New accounts filed by Breanagh Catering Ltd this week show how the Harcourt Street hotspot is sitting pretty on a cash pile of more than €50m.

In just the 12 months to the end of January last, it enjoyed pre-tax profits of almost €5m - or around €95,000 per week.

With even swish cocktail bars and gourmet burger joints in the capital struggling, it's a feat matched only by the Dublin side's aforementioned victory over Kerry.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Coppers manager Darren Power said: "We're obviously delighted. It's a difficult trade at the moment.

"Like everyone else, we've had to tighten our belts over the past few years. We're just thankful people are still thinking of us on a night out.

"Headline figures look great," he added. "But there's a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, from management all the way down through the ranks. Everybody pulls their weight."

Set in the basement of the Jackson Court Hotel, the club, which is owned

by former Garda Cathal Jackson, has been a rite of passage for students moving to the big smoke since 1996.

Named after the first Earl of Clonmel, John Scott, who lived on Harcourt Street over three centuries ago and was better known as 'Copperfaced Jack', it has also developed a reputation as the go-to hangout for guards and nurses, even jokingly launching a special 'nurses' card' last year.

"From day one, we gave the customer what they wanted," explained Darren Power of the Coppers success story. "And the word of mouth just took off from there.

"Unlike some of the more pretentious nightclubs, we've got a relaxed atmosphere and play the type of music that people can dance to. Country customers often say it feels like their local disco back home."

Just a stone's throw away on Dublin's Grafton Street, it was a different story this week after celeb haunt Lillie's Bordello was left nursing a half-million hangover.

Accounts filed by Noyfield Ltd show how Lillie's and the adjoining Porterhouse Central Bar recorded a loss of €516,339 in the 12 months to the end of February last. In a note attached to the filings, however, bosses vowed to bounce back in 2016.

Ahead of its 20th birthday next month, meanwhile, Coppers' 193 staff are today sure to be bracing themselves for another busy Saturday night.

It is renowned for its 'Shifting Wall' - a wall near the ladies' toilets that does what it says on the tin. Some lucky punters could even end up going home with a pair of Copper Face Jacks underpants, which can only be won at the cult nightclub.

It is open seven nights a week. Coppers devotee and 2fm DJ Carl Mullan admitted to regularly being first in line to descend the sticky steps to the basement of 29-30 Harcourt Street, saying: "I've never had a bad night in Coppers. It's open late, is always hopping and it's generally full of people who are up for having a great night out.

"It's such an institution now that on any given night out, come about 1am, I can look at one of my mates and know they're thinking exactly the same thing as me: 'Let's go to Coppers!'"

Traditional Sunday lunches served all week long and an unashamedly cheesy soundtrack after dark may also go some way towards the enduring down-to-earth appeal of the venue, which was preserved in the 2013 stage play 'Coppers Uncovered'.

As for the legendary Coppers 'Gold Card', granting unlimited free entry to the club, manager Darren Power confirmed that it is not a myth.

"We've often thought about doing a competition asking people what they'd do for a Gold Card, but you wouldn't know what kind of responses you'd get," he joked.

"We've had loads of people pleading for them. However, they're strictly reserved for long-term regular customers."

Irish Independent

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