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exclusive White Moose Café owner has ‘no regrets’ about controversial spats over vegans, bloggers and breast-feeding


Owner Paul Stenson outside the White Moose Café which is due to close on January 31

Owner Paul Stenson outside the White Moose Café which is due to close on January 31

Owner Paul Stenson outside the White Moose Café which is due to close on January 31

One of Dublin’s most colourful café owners says he has “no regrets” over a string of controversies as he prepares to hang up his apron for a final time next week.

Paul Stenson, owner of the White Moose in Phibsboro, has had public spats with everyone from influencers and vegans to breastfeeding mums and workers on PUP. He even took to releasing CCTV footage of deviant customers.

The well-known café will shut its doors on January 31 following the sale of the Charleville Lodge Hotel where the business is housed.

Looking back over the many controversies, Paul said nothing was ever planned, but the character of a “narky” café owner was used as a marketing tactic.

“It was never about my feelings, it was a caricature I was creating of a cantankerous café owner. It was kind of a character I was playing to get publicity for ourselves,” he told Independent.ie.

“A lot of people in the hospitality business could relate. I said what they wanted to say but were too scared to, but there was nothing ever manufactured, everything happened. That girl did take the tip jar, a woman did put her bins in our wheelie bins.

“Everything that happens in a service business is usable content that can be put out to an audience to entertain. Over the years we have used our CCTV as content to entertain,” he said.

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“I have no regrets, but I could have ended up in hot water on several occasions. I have got into trouble.”

In 2019, the White Moose went viral after Paul released a screenshot of an email from an influencer asking for a free five-night stay in exchange for promoting it on her social media pages.

“By me doing what I did, White Moose was mentioned across 43 different countries which results in an advertising value equivalent to €8.4m,” Paul said.

Dubbed as “bloggergate”, it sparked a debate online about the transparency of influencers posting “positive” content online in exchange for a freebee.

“If we had given her those five free nights, she would have obviously spoken positively about our business, whether it was good or bad,” Paul said.

“It was never really about me loving or hating influencers, it was about trying to get the name out there.”

However, it was in 2015 when the café got its first taste of viral marketing after it declared a war on vegans, threatening to “shoot” any vegans who entered after one woman complained about the menu.

In a Facebook post, the café said: “Please do not waltz into our café with no advance notice and look at us as if we have ten heads when you realise there aren’t 50,000 items on our menu that suit your idiosyncratic dietary requirements.”

Vegans then began leaving negative one-star reviews on the page, which was quickly counteracted with a ban on vegans who attempted to enter.

“All vegans are barred from our café,” a later Facebook post said. “Given the torrent of abuse and unjustified negative reviews we have been receiving from the vegan population over the past 24 hours, all vegans are now barred.

“Any vegan attempting to enter the café will be shot dead at point blank range. While we wouldn’t usually kill any of our customers, as you say yourselves, ‘meat is murder’, so it’s fair game if we murder humans as well as animals. There is clearly no difference.”

Paul admitted that after “vegangate”, the café received fewer vegan customers, to his delight.


Charleville Lodge, home to the White Moose Café, has been sold

Charleville Lodge, home to the White Moose Café, has been sold

Charleville Lodge, home to the White Moose Café, has been sold

“What I said through social media, a lot of people took it seriously as opposed to seeing it as a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek joke,” he said.

“People who took offence to what I said wouldn’t really come in, which I always said was great because it meant our seats were all occupied by people who could have a laugh.”

However, despite his controversial campaigns to ban vegans, bloggers and gluten-free, he said humour was always the name of the game.

“We still got all the people I was banning who saw the funny side to it. Nothing was ever manufactured, it all happened but I chose to publicise it and put my own take on it,” he said.

In 2018, they sparked the ire of breastfeeding mums with a new rule which read: “Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding is allowed in our café. There is a corkage charge payable of €5 for one breast or a special deal of €7.50 for two.”

Other controversial incidents throughout the years include a woman stealing the café’s tip jar last year.

Paul posted on social media: “The lady who stole the tip jar from our coffee counter in Phibsboro today has one hour to return it.

“Failure to return the money to our team will result in my sharing CCTV footage of the incident. The clock is ticking.”

As promised, Paul released the video of the woman which quickly went viral.

The café also sparked controversy in 2021 after Paul’s “get back to work” comments, hitting out on those claiming the PUP during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dividing online communities, the café said: “Why would anyone want to work in this industry when they can get a sizable Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) for sitting on their holes watching Netflix?”

Paul said his comments “reflected what everybody was thinking, but nobody else was brave enough to say”.

Throughout the years, Paul has received letters from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Data Protection Commissioner for releasing images of his customers, as well as lots of online trolling.

“A lot of people hated on the White Moose over the years and called me all sorts of names online, but I’ve never met anybody in person to say the type of things they said to me online,” he said.

Although the café will be closing its doors for a final time next week, the successful White Moose brand is currently for sale.

Throughout the years the brand’s Instagram account has racked up 98,000 followers and has its own merch.

For budding brand owners, Paul said the secret is to “tell a story… nobody buys what you do, they buy why you do it”.

“Use your social media not to sell, but to tell a story. I think that is how we did so well… we used humour as a vehicle to get a message across to people.”

Now living in Achill Island in Co Mayo, Paul has left his Dublin life behind and is running a portable sauna business on the beach called Sabhna.

So, what’s next for one of Dublin’s most colourful business owners?

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“Taking a big deep breath,” he said. “It was never about me flipping burgers or making cappuccinos. What I was good at was entertaining, and that’s where my life will take me next.”