12 Pubs is a staple of the festive season for most Irish people, but what about the dark side behind the trend?
The 12 Pubs is fast becoming a staple of Irish yuletide culture. A continual source of controversy that highlights the divisions between a primarily young and often overzealous counter-culture and those who seek to implement order and dignity to Irish towns. The issue is not 12 pubs; the issue is the cultural foundation upon which it is built. Whichever stance the minority take on the matter, it won’t stop until the opposing movement is as powerful and determined as the movement that perpetuates the trend.
One would have to ban an obscene number of drink-based traditions in order to completely erase Ireland’s alcohol problem. Stag nights, Hen nights, University traditions, holidays that shouldn’t typically be synonymous with consuming copious amounts of alcohol such as Halloween. The fact remains that Irish culture breeds customs such as these to revitalise and in the eyes of some, revolutionise drinking. If 12 pubs were to disappear, it would swiftly be replaced with a new fad just as dangerous that would aggravate just as many people.
Each year a number of publicans announce their dismay at the very prospect of the festive celebration, with many bars outright barring the associated groups from their respective premises for the season. Popular watering holes in major urban areas have cited their disgust at the hordes of exuberant pint-swilling pilgrims donning their obnoxiously bright Christmas jumpers, bells and novelty antlers. Owners have expressed that their regulars do not appreciate the groups coming into their bar and obstructing the ebb and flow of an otherwise pleasant evening.
Each pub certainly has a responsibility to provide for each of their punters, some of whom may be disturbed upon the entrance of the cavalcade of crawlers. Locals in a multitude of Irish towns such as Galway, Dublin and Cork annually denounce the behaviour of the pub-crawlers as abhorrent and detrimental to the image of their town. Most businesses do welcome the groups however, as they provide a monetary boost for some establishments that might otherwise struggle in the pre-holiday lull. The 12 pubs of Christmas are no more ridiculous than Student Races, R.A.G week or any other shallow excuse to drain pints as if prohibition is immanent. Soon we’ll all be robbed of our favourite method of social escapism.
On Halloween night this year, I saw men and women stumbling like toddlers toward packed bars only to gesture toward a Heineken tap and promptly be supplied with a pint. They should not have been served nor should they have been let in. Every pub and club worth their name should turn away unpredictable people who could pose a threat to themselves and their customers. Large changes have to be made to eradicate Irish alcoholism on a substantial scale. Perhaps raising prices as they do with cigarettes, not a popular method by any means, but smoking is slowly declining year by year. While organisations and the Department of Health deal with that, all people can do on ground zero is stand firm for their businesses and principles.
The onus is primarily on the drinker to abide by both social and legal standards, but it is also partially on the door staff and bar staff to identify those who are unfit to be served. Guards also have to keep a keen eye out for any unsightly behaviour or anyone that is drunk to the point of needing assistance. Everyday people can influence how much Irish people drink. It is at the discretion of the bartender or the cashier at Tesco to serve someone who has already had more than enough.
There are some organisations set up to combat alcoholism in Ireland. MEAS (Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Ireland Limited) are one non-profit organisation that oppose alcohol abuse. They set up Drinkaware.ie in 2006 and have taken a staunch position that directly opposes the 12 Pubs and its advocates and enablers. Core representative entities were not available for comment on the topic while this piece was being written.
Although many establishments across Ireland are vehemently against the 12 pubs, the majority are not. If you do not wish to accommodate inebriates who you presume are going to shatter the atmosphere of your pub and abuse the privileges you allow them, then do not let them past the door. Don’t do this once a year, do it for every occasion that invites over-drinking. Bartenders cutting people off and bouncers turning away customers is a simple method but it is effective. They aren’t going to pre-drink forever; sooner or later you’ll have to ascertain who is fit to be served and who isn’t. The more vigilant you are, the more you control the damage.
Be safe over the holidays folks. Happy Christmas.