I’m not the first to think of this. This one is from http://mysmallobsessionminiatures.blogspot.com
This is a bit of an odd entry, but I find myself fascinated by dollhouses. I once went into a shop that sold items specifically for dollhouses and discovered it was possible to purchase a miniature box of condoms, and that’s when I realized it was possible to make a dollhouse version of anything. For a while, I considered making a dollhouse of my actual apartment, but then I would trash it, as though the doll versions of myself were slobby hedonists. It would be like a dollhouse version of Dorian Grey’s portrait, as though my pit-together real world were simply a masquerade covering for a dissolute private life, which would be true.
Lately I find myself thinking about making an Irish pub dollhouse. I have always wanted my own Irish pub, but am in no condition to buy one, so perhaps a tiny version will do.
I suppose one might start with an empty dollhouse room — those are easy to find — and then just start filling it with stuff. And there is a lot of stuff out there. I mean, whiskey bottles?
I have not wanted to focus overmuch on alcohol on this blog, in large part because I do not want to encourage the misconception that drinking is the defining experience of the Irish people. That’s not to say the subject should go undiscussed, but it gets a bit exhausting seeing the Irish-American world reduced to a punchline about drunkenness on the back of a green t-shirt.
This project will offer a growing list that explores what Irish pubs have offered, and what they might offer. It is meant to be a resource for existing Irish pubs, potential Irish pubs, and imaginary Irish pubs.
But one cannot write about the Irish-American experience without writing about the Irish pub. This has long been one of the crucibles of Irish-American identity, and it’s hardly surprising. Firstly, the Irish-American pub is a direct descendant of the long tradition of Irish public houses, which has a storied history as being a sort of cultural center in Ireland, often serving multiple functions, including grocer, hardware store, and even undertaker.
Secondly, the American bar has a similar history. American drinking establishments have long been a part of the American democratic process — the American Revolution itself was fomented in bars — and more than a few American groups used bars as venues for creating and maintaining their identity. Gay bars might be one of the most famous examples of this; after all, the Stonewall Riots began in a bar. But America has also produced an endless collection of German beer gardens, Mexican cantinas, biker bars, and Japanese saki bars, among many other examples. There are few ethnicities or uniquely American cultures who haven’t had their own bars. In America, you find your identity with a drink in your hands — or not, as there were even Temperance bars that served only soft drinks.
The Irish pub serves many different functions, and there are many different Irish bars. It is not my intention to review them and decide which one is best, but instead to offer a growing list that explores what Irish pubs have offered, and what they might offer. It is meant to be a resource for existing Irish pubs, potential Irish pubs, and imaginary Irish pubs.
This blog typically addresses the Irish-American experience, but this project will expand that somewhat to look to Ireland itself, as one of the functions of an Irish pub is to act as a sort of a portal through time and space, providing visitors with an experience that is identifiably Irish. Admittedly, this experience is often a fanciful version, based more in the American sentimental imagination than in the real Irish experience. But, then, if it provided a perfect recreation of the Irish experience, it wouldn’t be an Irish-American pub — it would just be an Irish pub.
Igo into this recognizing that there are all sorts of Irish-American pubs, and, for convenience sake, I will simplify them to three categories. They are as follows:
There is the dive bar, which probably represents the majority of Irish pubs in America. They are, for the most part, unambitious places, perhaps with an Irish name above the door and with a few shamrocks on the wall, and they might offer an Irish beer or two, but otherwise they are like any other American watering hole where unfussy drinks are served inexpensively to hard-drinking and sometimes loudly sociable clientele. They will sometimes offer events or entertainment, but these aren’t always Irish-themed, and tend to be a bit raucous.
There is the casual drinking bar. Think of the pub from Cheers. It’s tidy, has a good choice of drinks, and tends to wear its Irishness on its sleeve a little more. It may be a bar/restaurant, but its food selections typically will consist of (sometimes Irish-themed) bar food, and not fine dining. These are the bars that are most likely to have Irish-themed events and music.
There is the upscale bar or gastropub. These will sometimes be built in Ireland and shipped to America. Their drink selection will be wide and often have quite expensive offerings. Their food selection will tend towards fine dining and sometimes offer a selection of authentically Irish recipes. These venues may or may not offer Irish-themed events.
When it seems proper, when I write an entry for this project, I will identify what sort of venue it is right for, and if there are variations that might be considered for different pubs.
Nine Fine Irishmen in Las Vegas: Win enough money at the casinos and you could have something like this in your living room.
The last time I wrote about turning a home into an Irish pub, I focused on pub signs. But it isn’t a pub without a bar, and, moreover, it isn’t as much fun without a bar. If you’ve got quite a lot of room and quite a lot of money, you can do what many Irish pubs in America do, and actually buy a bar from Ireland. The most popular example of this is the Irish Pub Company, who Slate rather dimissively identified as being one of the guilty parties behind an explosion of “faux Irish pubs” throughout the world.
I understand Slate’s complain, and it’s easy to sneer at the inauthenticity of a business that builds antique-looking pubs (their styles included the “Country Cottage” and “Victorian Dublin.” But, then, I like these styles of pub, even if there is a whiff of Disneyland-style stage management about it. Whenever I’m in a new town, I go to the pubs that locals name as being “most like a real Irish pub,” and they’re always dives. I’ve never been one to mistake “crappy” for “authentic” when it comes to watering holes, and, besides, one you start arguing authenticity, you’re sliding down a long and dark rabbit hole. We Americans have always liked our Irishness to have a dollop of nostalgia and more than a dash of twee, and if these Irish-made pubs somehow aren’t authentically Irish, well, they’re perfect for Irish-Americans.
The real issue is cost: While the Pub Company says it will work around client’s budgets, those are typically going to budgets that range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and unless you’re an eccentric millionaire, that’s probably not what you’re ready to spend. So let’s discuss some other options, starting with the expensive and working our way back down to the reasonable.
There are others as well, such as the Irish Fitzpatrick Solid Mahogany Tavern from the King’s Bay, priced at $8,795 without shipping, but I still feel like we’re in eccentric millionaire territory here.
Far more reasonable, both in terms of price and in terms of space used is the Guinness Raised Panel Bar Set, selling for $1606. It’s the sort of thing you can tuck into the corner of a room or make the centerpiece of a basement rumpus room, and who would not want a rumpus room in their basement?
Of course, having a home bar is just one way to display your liquor, and if you’re on a budget, in an apartment, or just space-conscious, a bar cart might be a better option. As far as I have been able to figure, there are no specifically Irish bar carts online, but for an elegant deco model made by an Irish company that would look right in a Noel Coward play and exactly wrong in a home Irish pub.
My recommendation it to go rustic and do some home crafts. My tastes are for furniture that looks like it was built by a hobo out of wood saved from a fire, and, fortunately, that style happens to be popular just now, such as this industrial bar cart from Target. Now, if you’re taste is for the kitschy, paint the wood green, but the Irish have a tradition of painting their doors all kinds of colors, and any will do.
Even the plainest bar becomes Irish when you add in Irish beer, liquor, and barware. And, as the so-called faux Irish pubs have discovered, the real trick is to decorate with Irish bric-a-brac, and we’ll cover that in the next installment.