Trendy Irish Pubs Invade Manhattan and Beyond

By Danitz, Tiffany | Insight on the News, March 30, 1998 | Go to article overview

Trendy Irish Pubs Invade Manhattan and Beyond


Danitz, Tiffany, Insight on the News


Sure, many Americans wear the green on March 17 -- and increasingly the other 364 days as the Irish pub makes a comeback. The stout is the some, but the mood and music has changed with the times.

It was drizzling and 50 degrees; that felt like Ireland. But when I ducked inside Fiddlesticks on Greenwich Avenue in New York City, I found myself surrounded by enough antiques from the Emerald Island to believe I had wandered into a country pub in Co. Kerry or Co. Cork.

The only antiques decorating many American-Irish pubs are the geezers holding up the bar. So who are those twenty-something bohemian types -- dressed in black and sporting trendy oval eyeglasses -- sitting in the corner? And why is the Dublin-born bartender telling me to bet on real-estate investments? Where have all the claddaghs gone? Where are the cardboard clovers?

"We are trying to get away from the stereotyped Irish bar," says Peter O'Dwyer, 30-year-old co-owner of Fiddlesticks, which opened three months ago. "You know, the places with a jukebox in the corner, neon signs, people crying over their beers wishing they were back in Ireland."

Certainly O'Dwyer, in his Polo button-down shirt and silk tie, would look more comfortable sipping manhattans at the Algonquin than downing a shot and a beer at a Blarney Stone. "We feel we are trying to portray something more symbolic of modern Ireland and its highly educated, motivated young people," O'Dwyer tells Insight. "People always had an image that we can't do anything but drink."

The new Irish pub has become hip, especially in New York -- a city sometimes described as the western-most county of Ireland. Even the East Village and the Lower East Side -- the province of the more dedicated poseurs -- has been infiltrated by wood-paneled pubs with names like Swifts, where bands play "Danny Boy" to a reggae beat.

I wasn't completely convinced that urban sophisticates were flocking to Irish watering holes to study Gaelic over the odd pint. I harked back to my days working in Belfast, where I once saw a beer-bloated man vomit his evening's entertainment without missing a step, rinsing his mouth with a bit of cider.

But 25-year-old Star Kyrialeakis gets it. She describes Fiddlesticks as an "upscale, not-so-cheap Irish bar," and she likes it. So does 26-year-old Deborah Barker, a native of Co. Mead. "I think in America it got to a point where if you were out two or three nights in a week you were an alcoholic," says Barker. In Ireland, if you weren't out several nights a week people would come calling to see if you were under the weather. The Irish don't equate pubs with alcoholism.

In Ireland, explains O'Dwyer, the pub is a social post, a place to go and be with people instead of watching the "telly.

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