With more and more Wetherspoon pubs opening across Dublin, certified brit Nathan Young warns of what he thinks this may do to our pub culture.
Much like in this country, the pub is one of England’s most important cultural institutions. Like here, they have historically been white, heterosexual, male spaces. Like here, they have often been family owned, and central to social life in small communities. And, like here, much of this has changed. Changing demographics, social attitudes, and economic realities have transformed this institution over the years. Some of these changes are arguably good. The fact that unchaperoned women may now order drinks other than sherry, and do this at the bar rather than through a hatch for example. A bar with no women would be a strange place indeed for near anyone today. The relative increase in comfort members of minorities feel is also unquestionably good.
Nevertheless, pub culture is under attack. The wretched disease that has been destroying locals across the UK for many years now is now sinking its talons into Dublin's already precarious pub scene.
Across the street from the husk of what was once The Bernard Shaw, a pub that served as a music, arts, and culinary venue, is the symptom: a soon to be opened Wetherspoons. Despite the facade of each branch being named differently, each one of Tim Martins ghastly pubs is the same. Far too well lit for a pub, the lack of music adds to the feeling of being drunk in one’s parents living room. The menu in each is the same, and far too long. The result is mass produced slop, barely fit for a school canteen, masquerading as “real pub grub”. The steaks don’t justify the death of the cows, and the lasagna is a perhaps intentional insult to the people of Italy.
The worst part, however, is the service. Surviving on far less than a living wage, and alienated beyond belief in a pub that operates like a factory, the staff don’t seem to care much about the patrons and their experiences. And nor should they, given their situation. Delivering drinks orders made over a wretched app is nothing like bartending. In any real pub the staff will chat with patrons at the bar, or at least crack a joke on a busy night.
To oppose this McDonaldsification of pub culture, the people of this fair city need to unite behind their locals, resist the shallow cheapness of English “pub” chains, and embrace what’s good about the old fashioned pub.