Saturday 24 February 2018

Why we're still going GAA-GAA for Coppers

The 18-year-old club attracts sports stars, students and even a billionaire, but the crush in its 1,500-strong queue caused controversy this week, writes Chrissie Russell

Copper faced jacks
Copper faced jacks
Peter Clifford and Helen Woods. Pic by Martin Maher
Peter Clifford and Helen Woods. Pic by Martin Maher

Chrissie Russell

Dublin may be a city of a thousand welcomes, hundreds of pubs and countless eateries – but there's only one Coppers.

In the fickle world of nightclubs, Copper Face Jacks, or 'Coppers' as it's affectionately known by its adoring fans, has bucked the trend and still manages to pull in the punters 18 years after opening its doors.

But just what is the secret of the club's enduring appeal that ensures even on a wet Monday it has thousands of customers wanting to come in?

According to its manager of 18 years, Darren Power, the answer is deceptively simple. "We are what we are and people know what they're getting," he explains. "The music is cheesy but well mixed, the entertainment's great, staff are friendly and the service is good.

Due to an ongoing investigation, he can't comment on the incident earlier this week, when an 18-year old had to be taken to hospital after a being crushed in a crown of 1,500 people queuing outside the club. It was the first time the club had hosted the over 18s 'Messy Monday event', which have now been stopped. But Darren says it's important to note that safety is paramount to the club.

"Since opening in 1996 we've upgraded and refurbished every 18 months or so, but we haven't 'modernised' or messed too much with the formula. We've tried to stick to the traditions we established on day one and when we listen to feedback, that's what customers say keeps them coming back."

Of course Coppers isn't the only joint in town playing cheesy tunes, giving good service and offering up tantalising drinks offers, but it does seem to have cornered the market for being people's venue of choice for a good night out.

Open seven nights a week, the Harcourt Street club can expect to pull in 1,000 punters on a week night with the numbers swelling to 2,500 on a Saturday night. Recent figures show the club, owned by former garda member, Cathal Jackson, posted impressive annual profits of almost €7m.

One facet to its appeal is that you could rub shoulders with quite literally anyone on the dance floor.

With mentions in the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide, it's a hot spot on the tourist trail for anyone visiting Dublin and even Aussie Rules players have been lured to Ireland with their captain's promise of "a night out in Coppers".

The Irish Olympic team partied there after London 2012 and let's not forget the 2011 All-Ireland winning Dublin team whose captain, Bryan Cullen, famously announced to a TV audience of over 1.1m, "See you all in Coppers". "I suppose it was the first thing that came into my head," he explained later.

Last November multi-billionaire Elon Musk, the co-founder of Paypal and the inspiration for the character of Iron Man's Tony Stark, danced happily and largely unnoticed until 2am before leaving in a taxi.

From billionaires to college students, gardaí, nurses and teachers – all are welcome and frequent attendees are rewarded for their custom with special Gold Cards (to waive the cover charge) and a new Nurse's Card on the horizon.

"We've a huge client base born from years of giving customers what they want," explains Darren. "We have older customers who started out here that still give us a new visit and a lot of sports people who like coming in because they can blend in and there's no fuss made.

"We have a resident's bar area that we can cordon off but often we find people, like the Olympic team, want to be out mixing with the crowd. You could find anybody in here on any night of the week."

Of course it's not always celebrities that people are looking to find, Darren laughs: "Finding a partner – that's what everyone comes here for."

Sometimes love blossoms. Peter Clifford, head chef at Pepper Brasserie and Grill in Clontarf, met his girlfriend, Helen Woods, in the throng of Coppers.

"I was working in a Dublin restaurant at the time working 16 or 17 hours a day, so I wasn't looking for romance, but we saw each other at the bar and on the dance floor and just clicked," he recalls.

"I know there's plenty of Coppers relationships that live and die on that dancefloor, but we've been together almost five years now and have a kid together, so it's pretty serious!"

In time he expects his son Michael (now two and a half) will also make the Coppers pilgrimage. "I'm sure he'll be there a few years down the line," he laughs. "It's a great place and you're always in for a good time."

But while successful unions boost its reputation as a matchmaker's heaven, the less successful tales earn Coppers an almost mythical status with messages going viral from women seeking to track down their nightclub lotharios.

Brief flirtations are made all the more possible by the venue's sheer size. "There are seven bars on the premises and people can get lost for a while if they want to," says Darren. "That probably adds to the mystique as well."

Referring to the crush in the queue on Monday night, Darren says: "we've had very few incidents and certainly nothing of that nature before." The venue employs a team of around 50 security staff.

"Parents are happy to have their children come here and feel safe. We put customer safety first and customers know that."

Irish Independent

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