The rattle of stainless steel kegs can be heard echoing down Capel Street as the cold early morning mist rises above Dublin’s city centre. Nearby, the chatter of workers from the Victorian fruit and vegetable markets mixed with the sound of church bells wafts through the air as a key turns in the lock of Slattery’s pub and owner Brian Conlon pushes open the door.
He sticks his head briefly outside and exchanges a few words with doorman Cristian Ichim before retreating to the cosy confines of his Capel Street pub. So far, the only customers on schedule for this historic 7am Good Friday opening are journalistic hacks, eagerly awaiting the Thursday night rollovers to begin streaming in.
The first arrival is far less conspicuous. Shane McShea is already digging into his breakfast and taking a sip of his first ever (legally poured) Good Friday pint when approached for a chat. He’s a regular to the pub and often stops by for a bite on his way to work.
Asked if it feels special to be drinking in a pub on such a momentous day, he shrugs his shoulders. “It’s different but I never really thought about it before. It’s a good thing to see pubs open and I don’t think it’s going to cause any major issues towards alcoholism. Eventually I can see it just becoming like any Friday. I guess it’s a positive thing.”
Outside on the street, Ichim stamps his feet to keep warm. After 11 years working the early morning security shift outside Slattery’s he’s fully accustomed to the early morning clientele.
“Mostly sober people,” he says. “People working night shifts who come in the morning like nurses, fireman and people working in the markets. Not many drunks or messers.”
Pushed on this point, he admits he’s already turned away a few people who he felt were too drunk to enter. They have other options, he says pointing up the street towards another establishment where he says roll-overs can continue drinking.
Slattery’s lit-up windows and open doors have already been met with disapproval by passers by this Good Friday morning, he adds. “They were older people saying it’s a disgrace and that it shouldn’t be happening. It’s one day a year. I think it’s very good for everyone; for staff it’s extra shifts, for tourists they have somewhere to go.”
Back inside, the Cranberries' Zombie plays over the speakers as Stephen Foy from Palmerstown sits at the bar leafing through the morning paper while taking sips from his pint of Heineken. He's arrived into town early to pick up fittings for a job later this morning. His plan is two pints, pick up the fittings and then off to work.
Foy says the decision to allow pubs to open on Good Friday just makes sense. “They needed to get with the times. We’re not back a hundred years ago now.”
Nearby, waitress Natalia Czarnik is laying tables for breakfast. She has worked the morning shifts at the early house for four years and says the early arrivals come to Slattery’s for the drink and stay for the food. “When the drinks start they begin to feel hungry but the main breakfast is the Guinness. It’s a mighty breakfast for everyone.”
Most of the time, Czarnik enjoys chatting to the bleary-eyed all-nighters who fall through the door at 7am. “They’re usually very funny. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with them but we always have security.”
Moments later, there's a short commotion near the main entrance as six students with backpacks squeeze through the door. While they settle around a table near the blazing fire and order their pints, Faison Bunch explains how the group of friends from New York have arrived in Europe for a week-long trip around Ireland and the UK.
They began their morning in McDonalds - following a 5am flight arrival - but then they heard the pubs were open.
“We were just trying to find a place to go and I’m thinking when is the soonest we can drink a Guinness,” says Bunch. “Then we found Slattery’s was opening so it was like guys, let’s do it.”
“We were in the cab on the way here and the guy driving us was like this is a big deal,” he adds before taking his first sip of Guinness. “We’re making history. So I guess this really is a good Friday.”