How the Irish pub took over the world

Today people will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Irish pubs from Hong Kong to Panama. But did you ever wonder how Irish pubs spread to the ends of the earth?

The fascinating backstory is explained in the St. Patrick’s Day special of The Irish Passport podcast.

The Irish pub empire began in the 1990s, when Guinness and The Irish Pub Company came up with The Guinness Irish Pub Concept ™. Guinness were looking for ways to sell more stout, and they gambled that encouraging the spread of Irish-themed pubs was the way to do it.

The Irish Pub Company studied pubs around Ireland and came up with a handful of templates. “Country Style” has stone walls, milk pails and rustic touches. “Victorian Style” has dark wood and quiet corner, like a classic Belfast pub. “Celtic Style” has swirling designs and instruments. Irish-sounding names and a backstory could be provided for aspiring publicans too.

It paid off. Irish pubs, where punters come, stay, and spend a lot of money on drink, turned out to be versatile money-makers the world over.

So far, so cynical. But is the Irish pub really such a bad thing?

You can look at it another way. Primarily, Irish pubs are the success stories of Irish entrepreneurs. They provide jobs for Irish immigrants globally. They advertise Ireland to the world, projecting an image of fun and friendliness that draws tourists to the island.

And as I explain in the podcast, Irish pubs can behave as informal embassies for travellers around the world. The right Irish pub is a ready-made community of support. I can testify to that myself.

And this St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll certainly find me watching Ireland vs England in my local.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona daoibh!

Irish journalist writing for @PoliticoEurope. Try my politics/history/culture podcast @PassportIrish.