Irish Pub Design – New versus Old

Ask any tourist on their way out or just back from a visit to Ireland what the 3 best things were and this is the always the answer:

  • The beauty of the country, from the rich green fields to the wild west to Kilkenny castle, the giants causeway and our capital Dublin
  • The people themselves, how they talk to you and make you feel welcome, how they laugh and describe events and directions
  • The pubs, unique in atmosphere and warming to heart and soul, they all love the food, the music, the pints and join them all together you have the craic

What has been branded as the Irish pub concept phenomenon in the last two decades isn’t really a phenomenon it is just great publicity of what has been happening for centuries. There are over 100 million Irish diaspora throughout the world, that is nearly 22 times the current population of Ireland. As we Irish emigrated, we brought with us our traditions, beliefs and our community hub, the Irish pub.

Why is the pub a community hub?

Lest go back, firstly looking at Dublin in 1926, half of all families in Dublin city, a third in cork  city and limerick city lived in homes of one or two rooms, at a time when the average family size was six, in rural ireland the family size was larger. So we didn’t have the den, the dining room, the game room and the living rooms, the TV didn’t arrive until the late 1960’s. The public house was your living room, was the place where people from all walks of life met and gathered.  Births, marriages and deaths were celebrated there, but also a community where young and old socialized together, side by side music was sang and played, stories told and craic was had, it’s this history, sense of community, of family and belonging which is at the heart of the Irish pub

The global expansion of the Irish pub happened as the first emigrant left our shores on a boat to make better for themselves and their families abroad. The Irish Pub was a strong draw to them as it was here where they made connections in their new communities, sought advice on where to live and work and found that sense of belonging to a community.

This draw of an Irish Pub has not lessened throughout time. Its success is their ability to create a welcoming space where every customer identifies it as “Their Local”. It is a place to catch up with friends in a relaxed environment. Unlike other pub styles and fads that need to be updated every decade to remain attractive, an Irish pub built well will stay current throughout the centuries. An Irish Pub requires a once off investment as by employing the right materials at the start, these only require a sanding down and painting every decade or so.

New York City’s oldest pub is an Irish Pub, McSorleys. It opened its doors in 1854 and from that very first day it could have passed for a pub straight out of Ireland. Through the use of solid timbers and traditional Bric a Brac, the pub remains relatively unchanged over the last 160 years and will for the next century too. This is not a once off example, it is seen throughout Ireland and the world.

So when creating an Irish Pub today you have to stay true to what has worked in the past, employ materials that will last and are visually appealing, while asking the following important questions:

  • Where is your location and who will be your target customers
  • What is your style, your personality must shine through
  • What is your budget
  • What will be your product offering, will you be craft beers, food focused etc.

By the end of this process you will create a true Irish Pub that will work for your customers and you and will remain relatively unchanged from generation to generation.

When we design and build Irish Pubs our goal is to work with the client’s to produce not just pubs but institutions where counters that have stories, floors that have seen traffic and people having fun.




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