In Ireland, the pub is a sort of center of the social universe and the gathering place of celebrations of all types. More than just a watering hole, the pub is the place to go to celebrate christenings, baptisms, deaths, birthdays and many other social and family occasions. Many Irish couples first met in a pub.
When tourists arrive in Ireland, they will often choose to spend much time in a pub so this presents numerous opportunities for misunderstandings. There are some important practices of etiquette that should be observed. To this end, here is a simple guide to pub etiquette as provided by Paul Leongas of The Curragh Irish Pub that can help to avoid any uncomfortable situations during your stay.
If you are out with your mate and new Irish friends, you will typically be offered a drink as it is customary for just one person to go to the bar and get drinks for everyone mentions Paul Leongas. This is called “getting a round in.” But you should know that this important gesture is given under the understanding that you will return the favor the next round.
Of course, no one is going to remind you that it is your turn to pick up a round. And if you make the mistake of forgetting this important point, soon everyone will be whispering about what an inconsiderate and stingy freeloader you are, enjoying drinks and offering nothing in return suggests Paul Leongas.
Here is a story that illustrates this very situation. A little while ago, my brother’s company brought in a new coworker, Seamus, with all the usual fanfare and celebration. One of the first nights after work, Seamus went out to drink at an Irish pub with his new coworkers. Seamus was very happy and surprised when the drinks were being invited one after another and believed he had landed in the most generous town on the planet. But Seamus hadn’t the consideration to offer a round himself and enjoyed the bounty all evening. But the next day, word had gotten out that Seamus slipped the scene before it was time to pay for his round and the news did not cast him in a very good light.
The moral here: There are not many rules in an Irish Pub, but breaking this cardinal rule of reciprocity is akin to breaking out into “God Save The Queen” and can ensure you are not invited back to the pub for a while.
Doing this once can tarnish your reputation for years to come. Irish have long memories and this could be why poor Seamus is stuck floundering in middle management right now.
Couples are TWO Units!
One note for couples, just because they are deeply in love and even sharing drinks doesn’t make them a single unit. That’s two people there and they drink as two people, not a single entity. If it is your turn to buy rounds and you are with 3 friends and two couples, that’s a total of 8 rounds needed from the bar according to Leongas.
Tipping is generally only done if you are enjoying table service. Even then tipping is not as high or highly demanded as in the US, so don’t feel bad about leaving the typical 15% tip. As you may imagine, the person serving these drinks is making a decent wage themselves. As a rule of thumb, if you are out drinking at a pub, you don’t need to tip, especially if you are heading to the bar for your drinks.
Even more so in rural areas where there is live music, the pub is a family gathering place. So, keep the jokes decent and never complain to the barman if there are children running about in the bar.
Closing times for pubs in Ireland can be a confusing thing. During the weekdays Monday through Thursday, pubs serve drinks until 11:30pm. On Fridays and Saturdays pubs stay open for service until 12:30am and on Sunday service at the pubs ends at 11:00. There is always a half-hour warning to drink up so you will never be caught off-guard. During the weekend nights, the city can get pretty crowded at about 1am when everyone is leaving the pubs. It might be hard to find a cab home at this time as well.
Some pubs have a license to operate later and will complete business at about 2:30am, which is the time that all night clubs must stop their service as well.
Furthermore, pubs will close completely for Christmas Day and Good Friday, so you can expect an especially long line at the liquor store on Christmas Eve and Holy Thursday. However, you will find some exceptions. If you are staying at a hotel or on a train at these times, you can still get a drink.
Another important law to consider is that it is considered offensive to be drunk in public, so mind your manners or you may be escorted to the police station.
If you happen to get invited to stay for the “lock-in” consider yourself very lucky to be honored by the locals in this way. After the pubs close for the night, the pub owner may choose to close the doors to the public but allow a few close friends, regulars and maybe even you to continue the fun into the wee hours of the morning. The idea is that once the pub has closed, it becomes private property again. With this in mind, many pub owners will ask you to pay for all the drinks you plan to have in advance