What's the problem?
Real Irish Pubs
On the continent, the first generation of Irish pubs was slightly different. They were places run by either Irish or British expatriates trying to recreate the feel of a British pub for their homesick compatriots. Depending on the local building style and the money they had available, they had some degree of physical resemblance to a real pub, but most important was the presence of some British or Irish keg beer (usually Guinness and John Bull bitter) and perhaps some British pub food. Not the best beer in the world, but good enough for someone desperate for a drop of ale in a sea of lager. These pubs weren't intended to appeal to the local population and usually didn't, being anglophone in the extreme. Given their limited target group, there wasn't room for a great number of them and it was usually limited to one or so per major city, depending on the number of people from the British Isles resident there. So while a city like Amsterdam could support 5 or 6, Düsseldorf only had 1 or 2.
The concept of themed Irish pubs then began inevitably to seep onto the continent, partly through chains, such as O'Reilly's, and partly through opportunist publicans who saw it as a good ruse for boosting custom. Of course, this led to there being far too many such pubs to rely solely on their traditional customers, British and Irish expatriates. Now they were going for a wider group: young trendies, tourists, the sort of people so frightened by the unknown that they gratefully cling to anything vaguely familiar. Yes, they were after the McDonalds generation. Don't panic when in a foreign country, ignore the local bars and head for your nearest Irish theme pub, you know what to expect there. OK, it will be a pathetically ersatz and low-quality product, but hey, at least you won't have any nasty surprises. Guinness too cold to be tasted, overpriced and overcooked fish and chips, The Dubliners looping endlessly on the stereo. And they're spreading further and further. Go to Prague, go to Warsaw and there's a bloody Irish pub. I suppose they'll hit Vladivostock before the millenium.
I'm surprised that no-one has yet started an operation called McDonnells - it's the obvious choice of name for a chain of fast-Irish outlets. It's just another aspect of the trend for everywhere in the world to become more alike, with each country exporting the worst of its culture to everyone else. Exactly why anyone from Düsseldorf, with its brilliant altbier pubs, would want to drink badly-served Guinness or horrible Kilkenny in plastic surroundings is totally beyond me. More and more, traditional, comfortable drinking establishments are being destroyed and replaced by cheap, fake copies of the same thing. It's enough to make you cry. That the drinks on sale are as ersatz as the décor goes without saying. You won't catch any of these 'Irish' pubs selling a cask-conditioned stout or bitter. Oh no, it might intimidate the customers if they were offered anything which had any flavour.
What can I do?
© Ron Pattinson 1998 - 2010