Tuesday 23 October 2018

It's 7am and this Dublin pub is beginning to fill up on Good Friday for the first time - but is it as much fun?

Customers enjoying a drink early on Good Friday in the Boar's Head on Capel St in Dublin
Customers enjoying a drink early on Good Friday in the Boar's Head on Capel St in Dublin

Payu Tiwari

"HEY, you guys open?"

"Yeah, come on in!"

Conor is in his late 20s, and is not long out of the well-known Dublin nightclub, Coppers. He has had a late night, but his luck is most-certainly in. For the first time in 91 years, pubs in Ireland are allowed to open on Good Friday - and he's stumbled across one of the capital's few early houses.   

It's 7am. He's watching a pint of Guinness settling on the bar counter. It's Good Friday. And life is good.

"It feels great," he says, as he wraps his hand around the pint glass, adding that the novelty of getting a drink on Good Friday is what drew him to the pub... and is what has kept him up all night. 

Needless to say, he isn't the only one in the Boar's Head on Capel St, savouring the novelty of it all.

Hugh Hourican (right) of the Boar's Head with an early customer on Good Friday
Hugh Hourican (right) of the Boar's Head with an early customer on Good Friday

“I was born in 1985 and I’ve never known a Good Friday when there was alcohol sold. There’s children probably born today that won’t know one without,” said John Geraghty, who runs Publin.ie. “I’ve never been in the early house before. It should feel unnatural, but it doesn’t.”

As the clock ticks on, the crowd begins to swell and the pub is soon buzzing with chatter, and occasional bursts of laughter. Much of the country is still in bed, barely able to contemplate swallowing some porridge. But this spot is for those of a tougher early-morning disposition.

The sign placed on the window sill reads, “Opened today for the first time since 1928.” The pub owner’s demeanour reflects the mood of the place.

"It’s a big occasion," says Hugh Hourican, who took over the pub with his wife Ann back in 1994. "The Irish pub has become iconic worldwide. Close to half a million people arrive in Dublin every weekend, and it's great for us to provide them service. Also, it gets me out of doing the garden work at home."

"I think it’ll be busy with tourism," he adds when asked about how much of a crowd he's expecting for the day. The forlorn groups of hen and stag parties wandering aimlessly around Temple Bar stunned at the closed pubs is now being consigned to the past.

The repletion of the Intoxicating Liquor Act was a long fought battle that’s finally shown results today. Donal O’Keeffe, Chief Executor of License Vienter’s Association, also thinks it’s a big day for Irish tourism. “The long queues outside off license shops showed that people were choosing to drink on Good Friday. It was important that the pub trade had the option to be open.”

“Off licences are the ones who are going to take a big hit today,” said Hugh. “Consumption of beer on Good Fridays at home; the figures are very high.”

But will drinking on Good Friday be as fun as it used to be? Wasn't part of a charm getting an illicit pint someplace, using the fabled 'secret knock'?

“Yep, it’s all gone now,” barmaid Patricia says, as she greets another customer.  “For some of us, that was our culture. Getting an illegal drink on a Good Friday." She looks forward to spilling her Good Friday stories to the tourists that’ll come to the pub today.

Is this notable change going down as a cultural shift in the future? “I think it’s more about having a choice,” says Hugh. “Alcohol or food- whether you want it or not. I think it’s the way forward. I’m looking forward to today,” he adds.

We wonder how long Conor will stay going.

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