The Authentic Iisih Pub

Photo courtesy Irish Pub Company

The charm of a local Irish pub has an uncanny ability to draw in random passersby and regulars alike with its welcoming interior, light-hearted atmosphere and conversational bartenders ready to ask about your day while serving up a pint of Guinness. But what does it take to make a pub located outside of Ireland authentic in the eyes of the Irish themselves?

Dublin-based Irish Pub Company says the answer is simple; have natives of Ireland, who best understand the culture, design the pub.  “People have this idea that what is Irish are leprechauns or cottages. Our culture has great music and literature and that is something our company tries to incorporate into pub designs,” says Darren Fagan, Business Development and Contract Manager for the Irish Pub Company.

Established in 1991, Company owner Mel McNally in conjunction with Guinness created the “Guinness Irish Pub Concept”, the idea of exporting the Irish Pub, Fagan explains. “Guinness believed that the best way to promote their product was to have it part of the Irish pub concept, as we are used to seeing in Ireland,” he said.

And one key reason an owner would want to use the Irish pub concept is longevity, Fagan explains. “The older it gets the better it gets and obviously, if well managed, the visual aesthetics of the concept allow it to age gracefully”. An Irish pub utilizing the concept has an average lifespan of seven years until it needs any type of renovations, while other types of bars tend to need upgrades in a shorter amount of time.

The Company did extensive research of various pubs in Ireland to come up with their concept, paying close attention to designs, history of the establishments, and what made them successful overall. They then took this information and formed five style templates that work as a base for their designs: Victorian, Shop, Country, Celtic and Brewery.

Photo courtesy of Irish Pub Company

A Victorian style pub would have a “lavish interior” with such touches as decorative brass and elaborate tiling. Meanwhile, the Shop style would resemble the grocery or hardware stores in Ireland that often double as a pub, with a corner of the shop set aside for patrons. A Country style pub would capture a traditional stone-built design of an Irish country cottage, where customers may sit conversing in front of a large open fire on wooden benches.

As for a Celtic style pub, it would exhibit the character of the Gaelic people and their craftsmanship, with hand-made metalwork fixtures and painted wall murals telling stories of Irish folklore. As for the Brewery style, it would be reminiscent of the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, home of Ireland’s beloved Guinness, and would resemble details of an 18th century brewery courtyard with stone and brickwork.

To see the Irish Pub Company’s work firsthand, you can visit your local Fado Irish Pub. “Fado” Fagan explains, “is very unique in that we use all five themes within the pub. Fado is a flagship client of the Irish Pub Company concept and in most cases we are able to include all five themes in each of their pubs.”

The Company says it uses these styles to create a unique Irish pub concept for each of their clients. “We are not an Irish pub designer or builder, we are brand creators and feel very strongly about making sure a brand is unique and identifiable,” Fagan says. “To put pubs side by side, which is typical in Ireland, you have to give each a unique identity and that is something we are very good at.”

And the proof of this is in the numbers. The Company has created over 100 Irish pubs around the globe, spanning nearly every continent. At one point they were seeking clients, but now it’s the clients that are seeking the Company.

Fagan says it’s his company’s attention to detail and insistence on creating a quality brand that put it ahead of any of its competitors. “We firmly believe that if you want to generate a certain revenue you have to meet an expectation of a certain standard, without diluting it…We’ve had clients that want things done cheaper and will go to other companies.”

So what does it take to make a great Irish pub in the eyes of the Company? “It has to go across the board- light fixtures, artwork, bar finishes, level of your staff and the menu. You can’t just be plagiarizing a version of another Irish pub,” Fagan says. “You really have to develop each pub and attach it to a brand or identity.”

A key aspect of what makes the Irish pub concept successful is paying close attention to a client’s demographic, which Fagan says can play a part in everything from lighting to the menu. For example, at the latest Fado pub location in Miami, LED lighting was installed that changed colors and levels of light, to respond to the Miami party atmosphere, where people may want to continue into the late hours. “We came up with a modern version of the Irish pub concept for this one that was able to facilitate everyone’s needs and desires of an Irish pub,” Fagan said.

But he cautions that trying to pull off a modern twist like this for just any Irish pub concept may not be appropriate. “Some customers in various demographics may have a romantic connection to Ireland and you have to be careful not to step over that boundary. Putting in a concept for the sake of it is not right to do, but integrating a detail like LED lighting into the concept in a clever way so not to bastardize, works.”

Photo Courtesy of Irish Pub Company

During its initial design brief, the Company will ask several questions about the client’s location including the population, any specialty vendors nearby and the history of the area. “We gather the information from the clients and come up with the best ‘story for their pub’. It can be a family story or we’ll come up with one – Irish people are the best at that,” Fagan notes.

Once the design is complete the entire product (woodwork, light fixtures, flooring and furniture) is built in Ireland, completely assembled there to make sure it’s on point with the design, then carefully dissembled to be put back together in the US.

The entire process from start to finish tends to take anywhere from 24 to 30 weeks, depending on how quickly a client is willing to make decisions or wants a project done. “It’s a very precise process we’ve mastered over the years,” Fagan explains. “It all has to be done in a sequence that allows us to reach a point where we can hand over the completed project to the client,” he said.

Fagan says he has yet to find anyone that creates Irish pubs outside of Ireland, the way his company can. “The reality is, we maintain the integrity of the concept and the culture, and that is what is authentic.”

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