The eight faces you're guaranteed to meet on a night in Copper Face Jacks
This Dublin landmark has enjoyed another stellar financial year having accumulated profits of €72 million in the last 12 months, but what makes a club that so deftly plays the anti-Kool-Aid card such a success, and what kind of people go there, asks Ed Power
‘Country’ folk do it. Dubs do it. Even celebrities do it. Few, it seems, are immune to the raucous charms of Copper Face Jacks. The country’s favourite nightclub/pro-snogging-a-stranger national institution yesterday revealed as bringing in €100,000 per week in 2017, leading to accumulated profits of €72m.
What’s the secret? Perhaps it’s the comforting familiarity of an environment where there’s a 35pc chance the next song on the play-list will be Maniac 2000, people still use ‘shift’ non-ironically (hello 1990s!) and it’s okay to wear your denim wedged so high, it’s nudging the bottom of your chin.
Extraordinarily, Copper Face Jacks has become part of the tapestry of contemporary Ireland — not through chasing trends, but by ignoring them. It’s never tried to be edgy. Instead, the club appears to take pride in appealing to, maybe even perpetuating, the stereotype of the young ‘country’ person unmoored in the ‘big smoke’ — as Dubliners (and absolutely nobody else) are wont to refer to the capital.
So you won’t hear the latest underground tunes: ask the DJ about ‘house’ here and he’ll tell you about the one-off he’s building outside Ashbourne with 18 en-suite bathrooms. Fashionistas, too, are advised to move on — a ‘Repeal’ sweater on the Coppers dance-floor is about as common as an A-lister on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!
Still, nobody could quibble with the formula. The Dublin footballers famously retired to the club to toast their 2011 All Ireland victory. The strategy was aped by noted line-dancer and Achy Breaky Heart devotee Leo Varadkar, whose first executive step upon being elected Taoiseach was to invite his friends for victory-lap drinks at the venue.
The point is, indeed, fast arriving where a trek to Coppers will be de rigueur for any Irish person with something to celebrate.
Had Coppers been a thing when Samuel Beckett won the Nobel Prize for literature, he’d probably have ended up on Harcourt Street trying to score one of the legendary gold membership cards (often whispered of — but rarely encountered in the flesh).
Still, while many are called, it’s sometimes hard to work out who — celebs aside — is actually going to Harcourt Street. When I first moved to Dublin, none of my friends would be caught dead there — especially those of us from outside the city. The idea of going to a nightclub that not only embellished, but championed, the culchie stereotype felt preposterous.
In the interest of deepening our understanding of this phenomenon, we have therefore consulted top behaviourists and drawn up the definitive list of Coppers attendees. See if you spot yourself!
1. The professional country person
Typically from a largish town, they’ve bought into the Dublin-versus-rest of country cliche and, now gainfully employed in the capital, play the bumpkin card at every opportunity.
Depending on the company, their accent will flit wildly from south Dublin to south Mullingar and their ‘night out’ uniform is a carefully curated parody of what people wore celebrating New Year’s Eve in Roscrea in 1999. Their love for Garth Brooks is genuine though — and they really do know all the words to every Kodaline song ever.
2. The mortified friend of the professional country person
When you lived in Cork, you went to Sir Henry’s while your less sophisticated pals bunked off to Rearden’s and Fast Eddies. But now you’re all in Dublin together and, very much against your will, you’ve been dragged to Coppers. This is your one and only visit and you leave wondering how, with so many nurses gathered in one spot, any hospitals are actually functioning in the Leinster area.
3. The professional Dub
A cousin once removed of the professional country person, the True A-Blew Dub spends their summers on Hill 16 (unless it’s hurling, or ladies football, or minor, or under-21, or ‘the Pool’ are playing United). Their ‘going out’ uniform is a riff on the Paddy Down Under outfit of country GAA jersey, with a fresh-off-the-ironing-board Dublin shirt paired with stone-washed denim. Bonus marks if you can prove the depth of your fandom by flashing an Arnotts vintage top.
You don’t pull in €100,000 a week without understanding your market and Coppers’ mutual love affair with mid-ranking healthcare staff is such that it once launched a devoted Nurses Card. Where there are single nurses, there are inevitably unattached gardai too — the company that owns Coppers was, no coincidence, established by a retired member of the force (the low-profile Cathal Jackson, a former garda, and Paula Jackson) — and, by every account, the stereotype of this being a hook-up spot for the two professions is absolutely true.
5. People who wear too much Hollister
Admittedly, the observation is based entirely on a quick perusal of the Coppers Facebook page. Nonetheless, the evidence is plain to see: you can sport TOO much of popular American sportswear brands.
The same, incidentally, applies to checked shirts — which, in alternate dimensions centred on Harcourt Street, have never gone out of fashion.
6. The ‘on the pull’ bloke, plus tragic wingman
Incredibly, in this age of social media dating, ‘pulling’ remains a popular pursuit among a segment of the population.
By repute, Coppers is where you need to be if you fancy a frills-free get-together. Obviously, rocking up on your own would be a bit weird — also you might not get in — so be sure to bring a hapless pal, who won’t dampen your star power and will clear off as soon as the ‘Mission Accomplished’ flag goes up.
If there was any justice, Coppers would build a monument to the Unknown Wingman en route to the smoking area.
7. The victorious GAA team
Like all true Irishman, the Dublin footballers were straight to Coppers after winning the All Ireland in 2011 (back when Dublin winning the All Ireland was considered newsworthy). Thus was an enduring trend established.
8. Confused tourists
Expecting, perhaps, an evening of set-dancing or Clancy Brother types in enormous jumpers, these baffled visitors have somehow washed up at the national capital of gob-lobbing, bogger raving — yes, they’ve just put Maniac 2000 on again — and lager swilling. They’re not in Kansas any more — for one thing nobody in Kansas knows who Mark McCabe is.