Can Irish Bars Outside of Ireland Really Be Irish Bars?
There are very few places you can go around the world where you won’t stumble across an Irish bar. It is a staple in most cities and where many people find comfort and a good drink. But what differentiates an Irish bar from any other bar in the area? We’re about to find out.
History of Irish Bars
Let’s look at the history of Irish bars first. Irish bars have been around for a long, long time! The oldest pub in Ireland was established in the 10th century and is still around to this day. Traditionally Irish bars are named after the owners (often their last name) such as; O’Malley’s, or McNally.
These bars were a meeting point in the neighbourhood where locals would go at the end of the day to catch up and have a drink (or two). In the 1840s, a large number of Irish people immigrated to North America and brought with them their bars! Once Irish bars took off in North America, the idea spread around the world.
Irish Bars Around the World
So, how far spread are Irish bars? And, how much Irish tradition is left in them? It is estimated today that there are over 7,000 Irish themed bars around the world and the number is growing every day. They can be found in not too surprising countries like Australia, to ones much more surprising such as Indonesia and Ghana.
Usually found in big cities, there are also some in smaller tourist destinations like Gili Trawangan! There is even an Irish bar at the South Base Camp of Mount Everest! However, many of these Irish bars have come under fire. People are saying they are tourist traps, calling themselves Irish bars when really there is no Irish tradition there and no reason to call it an Irish bar.
There are a number of things that bars can do to consider them an Irish bar, more than throwing up an Irish flag and giving the bar an Irish name. A major factor to an Irish bar is the atmosphere that is created. It should be a relaxed, welcoming environment that anyone can walk into and immediately feel comfortable and at home.
A classic saying about Irish bars is that they are a place where everyone knows your name. This atmosphere is created with live music, good food and drinks, sports on the TV, and people always cheersing one another (Sláinte in Gaelic).
Music always brings people together. Live music brings people together even more! Having a good local band playing songs that everyone knows and can sing along to really brings people together.
That being said, Irish bars aren’t about having the most popular, influential music act in the bar. It’s about having someone that people know and can grab a drink with after playing the songs they love. At Tir Na nOg - Irish Bar on Gili Trawangan the only reason you’d come by one night and there wouldn’t be live music is if there is a big sporting event on (which we’ll get to later).
Family - A place where everyone knows your name
As mentioned before, a true Irish bar is somewhere where everyone feels welcome. Whether you’ve lived in the area your whole life or are only there for the weekend, you should be able to walk in and feel welcome. After you walk in, it won’t be long until someone is asking your name and telling you to join them. The Irish Bar on Gili T does just this! It is always full of smiling faces and people sharing stories over drinks.
One of the ways to make a good environment is the right decor and furniture. Nothing too pretentious but nothing too cheap looking either. You want it to feel like people are having drinks in someone’s living room or backyard. This means fun ‘knick-knacks’ and signs for people to look at and comfortable places to sit where people will stay a while.
Going right along with the sense of family and everyone feeling welcome, cheersing is a big thing in Irish bars as well. And we do understand that this is more on the customer than the bar owners to make this happening, they are providing the space. They have helped create the culture in their bar that makes people want to cheers one another. Sláinte translates to health in Gaelic, and that is what you will hear Irish say when they are cheersing. Cheers to good health!
A staple for a true Irish bar is to have many TVs around the place always showing whatever sport is on at the time. The games will draw in big crowds and bring the community together. Sharing a beer and a cheer (if you’re cheering for the same team that is!). People will come in and request certain games be played on TV and, most of the time, the barmen will do their best to get that game up on the big screen!
Traditionally, Irish bars were thought of as more of a watering hole than anything. They didn’t serve any food - they just had nice cold beer ready to be served. Slowly, Irish bars started bringing small bar snacks into their establishments. From there, it grew into the Irish bars we know today which offer a full menu! Irish bar menus, once again, should make you feel at home. It should be filled with all the comfort food you love, and of course, fish and chips!
Last, but certainly not least, beer! A true Irish bar will have a good selection of beer ready for patrons to enjoy. You can expect to find universally recognized beer brands, local brews, and sometimes interesting, unknown craft beers. One thing's for certain, though, they MUST offer Guinness!
Irish bars can be found around the world, but often lose their Irish touch as they get more popular or farther away from Ireland. If you can create a welcoming environment with live music, sports and beer, who knows - maybe opening an Irish bar is in your future!