A personal view: Temple Bar an urban-renewal travesty
Some tourists are appalled by the spectacle of drunkenness, writes Frank McDonald
The Bad Ass Cafe an emblem of the pre-existing, quirky, bohemian Temple Bar, is now trading as a pub – even though it has no planning permission to do so. Its industrial-style interior was ripped out in 2011 and replaced by a faux-traditional “Irish pub” with all the trappings. Photograph: Eric Luke
Temple Bar is a travesty of what it was meant to be when this flagship urban renewal project in the centre of Dublin was first conceived in 1991. Then, the aim was to develop the area as “a bustling cultural, residential and small business precinct that will attract visitors in significant numbers”.
The underlying message was that Temple Bar would become a vibrant “cultural quarter” – Dublin’s version of Covent Garden in London or Soho in New York, without their high property values. That was why many decided to buy apartments there, including myself.
Instead, it became the “temple of bars”, largely thanks to Temple Bar Properties (TBP), the State company that acted as its development agency – it was directly involved in the creation of four megapubs and in the facilitation of many more, by failing to draw the line.
Anyone could get a full licence merely by developing a hotel with a minimum of 20 bedrooms and then install a large bar on the ground floor, a nightclub in the basement and perhaps a chill-out area on the roof. And all of this was done with the benefit of tax incentives.
Huge drinking dens
As a result, the area is now dominated at night time by the licensed trade. Small neighbourhood pubs such as Flannery’s (reborn as the Temple Bar Pub, the most photographed in the area) were transformed into huge drinking dens extending to nearly 1,000sq m.
The Bad Ass Cafe, an emblem of the pre-existing, quirky, bohemian Temple Bar, is now trading as a pub – even though it has no planning permission to do so. Its industrial-style interior was ripped out in 2011 and replaced by a faux-traditional “Irish pub” with all the trappings. Like so many other pubs and nightclubs in the area, there’s a loudspeaker in the open entrance lobby blaring out recorded music to attract patrons.
The Old Storehouse, directly across Crown Alley from the Bad Ass, does the same, polluting the public realm with noise.
There’s usually a busker with a portable amplifier just down the street in front of the telephone exchange and a whole rock band that sets up across from the Brick Alley Cafe to bang it out on weekend nights. So much for the “voluntary code” banning buskers using amplifiers.
The Quays pub on Temple Bar Square usually has its doors open so that the “buzz” created by a live band playing inside can be broadcast to passers by.
Fitzsimons Hotel, with its “five floors of fun”, also uses a loudspeaker to blast music into the street, as does Bad Bob’s.
Several pubs have outdoor drinking areas to facilitate smokers and the din they create merges with the general hubbub on the streets, particularly on weekend nights. That’s when you’re likely to see guys who have drunk too many pints urinating in doorways, including ours.
St Patrick’s Day, “Arthur’s Day” and the last major drinking night before Christmas are almost apocalyptic. On “Arthur’s Day”, I tweeted that I had seen the first casualty shortly after 6pm – an ashen- faced 19-year-old woman lying in a pool of her vomit on Temple Lane.
Tourists from France, Italy, Spain and other moderate-drinking continental European countries are appalled by the spectacle of drunken revellers roaming noisily through the streets on a pub crawl or just falling about the place.
Policing is minimal to non- existent. There are rarely gardaí around when they’re most needed – notably after 2.30am, the official closing time for nightclubs, when drunken patrons congregate in the street, often to the accompaniment of someone playing bongo drums.
You’d never guess that some 2,000 people live in Temple Bar. In a similar part of Paris, the Marais, all nightclubs have double sets of acoustic doors to ensure there is no “entertainment noise breakout” into the street; otherwise, they would be closed down.
Laura Magahy, who headed TBP, once wrote about the “creative tension . . . between residents and publicans, commercial and not-for-profit enterprises, culture and tourism”. She even suggested this would “ensure the sustainability of the area” – a vain hope.
Now Temple Bar Cultural Trust, TBPs successor, is being subsumed into Dublin City Council after being found to have serious corporate governance failings.
A whole lot of things are being swept under the carpet and, this being Ireland, we’ll probably never know the full truth.