Galway is without question one of the most sociable towns in the land. Any night of the week you can be guaranteed to find a warm welcome, a great atmosphere and a refreshing tipple in a number of Galway’s fine watering holes.
We are spoilt for choice with the quality of establishments in a very close proximity to each other. For all the hustle and bustle of Shop Street and its surrounds, Galway’s bars have, I feel, a unique charm and personality that epitomises the best of what’s Irish.
I genuinely believe that I have learned more about people standing behind the bar than any college course could ever hope to teach you. I’m a firm believer that everybody should at some stage in their lives work in the service industry, either in a bar environment or in the food side of things, which is equally enlightening. Dealing with brusque and vexatious customers is a life lesson which is character building and tremendous for personal development.
But don’t get me wrong, the great thing about my chosen profession is that you get to interact with people when they are at their happiest. The simple pleasure of a good pint or a delicious glass of wine cannot be overstated. The banter you enjoy with customers can’t be equalled in other professions.
People see their local as a haven, somewhere that’s a refuge from the toils of the real world and as bar staff we have a responsibility to make this experience as therapeutic as possible. It’s the small things that make all the difference: remembering your drink, knowing what glass you want, saving “your” seat.
Alcohol, when respected, can be the catalyst for a marvellous night. As a nation we have an uncomfortable relationship with alcohol, stemming from wider environmental conditioning. Given the current plight of our sporting teams, the only polls the country ever seems to top are the alcohol consumption charts.
Some of the statistics that these provide are truly frightening. How do you go about changing the attitude of an entire nation that prides itself on a reputation of excessive alcohol consumption?
Obviously I’m generalising and a healthy percentage of the population either respect the power of alcohol or don’t drink at all, making the figures these studies produce all the more worrying.
If anything the pub is doing its best to police sensible consumption with conscientious bar staff and excellent bouncers. At least in the bar when enough is enough, that’s it. Sadly due to alcohol prices people are drinking more at home, which is killing the social element of drinking. The current trend is pre-drinking, where people are trying to justify getting drunk on cheap booze before they actually hit the town as some form of financial prudence.
People always complain about the price of drink, and rightfully so, but it is a vicious circle. While alcohol seems expensive at first glance, you have to take into account all the contributing factors, especially the external economic factors that are driving up the prices. Nowadays most publicans are fighting to make ends meet and keep their staff in jobs.
For me, I love that once I step in behind that bar on any given evening I can’t predict what lies ahead. I’ve seen it all; from quiet ones that turn into a session, crazy hen parties, touring rugby teams to awkward first dates, olds lads out for a quiet pint of the black stuff to young girls with the latest multicoloured alcopop.
The Irish pub is a central element in our small nation’s genetic make up, one which should be protected and cherished.