The once thriving industries of the fruit, veg and fish markets gave Dublin's Early House pubs a full house each morning. But with those sectors on their last legs, Ryan Nugent and Stephen Larkin look at what this means for the few remaining Early Houses.
Back in the early 90s, when Dublin’s fish, fruit and veg markets were bustling in the early hours of the morning, so too were Dublin’s early houses, where a bar stool and a whiskey became the perfect combination to continue the morning’s business.
The clocks would strike 7am and in the time the barman moved from opening the side entrance to the front door, the bar stools were taken and queues were formed.
This is a bygone era, centred on the market areas of Smithfield and Dublin’s docklands.
The pubs remain, their early licence intact but without the hustle and bustle that made them the happening places for night-shift workers and the jobbers getting a quick drink in before bed or a swift half to prepare themselves for the daily grind, is there much benefit from the 7am start?
No, says pub owner, Michael Hughes , who runs one of the select few in the city. However, now they don’t open until at least 8:30am.
Michael has been in the game a while, his father owned the pub for decades, and they both noticed the beginning of the end for the tradition in the mid-90s. Only three people sit in the bar on this particular Thursday morning, so it’s basically extinct.
It was made for those that didn’t work the regular nine to five shift,dockers and market workers in particular, with farmers coming from afar stopping in for a quick drink.
“For us, we had the fruit traders in, then you had guys from the fish markets, and we also had a group of Italian guys who owned the chippers. They would all be in early morning because a lot of them had their day’s work done by 7am,” Michael explains.
“They’d be in here having their whiskeys or even coffee and doing their deals, and it was real hustle and bustle.
“I remember maybe 25 years ago when we’d open the side door, to the pub at about two minutes to seven, then over to open the front door, by the time I’d get back to the bar, it would be three deep with people waiting to be served,” he adds.
The Chancery Inn, located along the Quays, was another hub for workers, but now houses about a dozen regulars every morning.
The real fun begins on the weekends, when for some, closing time in Coppers is just too early.
“It’s completely different. It’s almost all strangers. The jukebox is blaring and people are be up dancing on tables, and running amuck, and this is at seven in the morning. There wouldn’t be so many here on the Sunday mornings, but Saturday morning is the mad morning to be here,” says barman, Dave Hardiman.
However, it’s not an everything goes kind of place. One man is politely told to leave because neat dress is essential, “you don’t get served in a tracksuit. Managers orders,” Dave tells him.
With an estimated nine Early Houses remaining around Dublin’s City Centre, giving out early licences are a thing of the past. Pub owners only really hold on to them because they know if they’re given up, that’s it. Gone for good.
As the dockers and fishermen retire and don’t get replaced, the likes of Hughes, the Chancery and Slattery’s located nearby, will have to rely on a handful of locals, tourists and hard-partiers in order to take advantage of their early morning head start - a niche market, one guesses.
Photo: Anders Adermark/ Flickr