‘Don’t ruin the vibes’, Coppers punters advice to new owners of Dublin nightclub

Copper Face Jacks is on the market but ought to remain ‘a real Irish night out’

Since it first opened in 1996, Copper Face Jacks has become an Irish institution, a place where you are guaranteed to bump into a guard.

Since it first opened in 1996, Copper Face Jacks has become an Irish institution, a place where you are guaranteed to bump into a guard.

 

On Thursday night, Copper Face Jacks on Harcourt Street was decked out in St Patrick’s Day bunting, bracing itself for the long weekend ahead.

Inside, it was a fairly run-of-the-mill Thursday night with punters taking selfies on the dance floor and throwing shapes to songs like Blackstreet’s No Diggity and Mike Posner’s I Took A Pill in Ibiza.

Some were marking the end of an era. Earlier that day, it was announced that the legendary nightclub was officially up for sale alongside the Jackson Court Hotel.

After 23 years at the helm, owner Cathal Jackson said it was “time to hand over the reins to new owners who have the energy and the expertise to take Coppers to the next level”.

While a price has not been set, industry sources have speculated that it could fetch as much as €40 million. That figure prompted many in Coppers to joke, “Maybe I’ll buy it!”

On Twitter, Dustin the Turkey hatched a plan to nationalise it. “Right I’ve done the maths,” he wrote. “If everyone in Ireland gives me €8 we can buy Coppers and keep it for ourselves.”

Dermot Curtin, who is overseeing the sale, confirmed that the business was being sold as a going concern.

“Nothing changes whatsoever,” he said. “If you like, the captain of the ship is moving on, but the ship stays afloat.”

He said Cathal and Paula Jackson were “over the moon” with the response to the news.

“It’s a credit to them,” he said. “They put their lives into Coppers. It’s a pot of gold and it has been even with Cathal stepping back in recent years.”

Irish institution

Since it first opened in 1996, Copper Face Jacks has become an Irish institution, a place where you are guaranteed to bump into a guard and where you will almost certainly hear Wagon Wheel.

The nightclub featured heavily in the RTÉ 2 comedy series Can’t Cope Won’t Cope. The show’s creator Stefanie Preissner described it as a home away from home for country bumpkins.

“It’s like Clery’s clock except when you’re drunk,” she said. “It’s a place that country people go where we know we’re going to see someone wearing the same shirt as us.”

“When you move to Dublin first, you have a very different experience of the city. You don’t know the little pubs, the little nooks, and where’s cool to hang out. You just know that country people go to Coppers, you hear it on GAA match days, you associate it with Irishness. You know you’re going to find your tribe in there no matter how drunk you are.”

“There’s no need for a house party when Dublin has Coppers because that’s where everyone is going to end up.”

Paul Howard, the writer of Coppers: The Musical, described it as “probably the most successful pub and nightclub that’s ever been in this country”. Its appeal, he said, lies squarely in the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“It never really lost the run of itself,” he said. “It was never a notions nightclub. I think that’s why people from outside Dublin really loved it when they came to Dublin. It was a little bit of home.”

“It is very much a pints kind of nightclub. It’s meat and two veg. That’s why people love it and that’s why it draws people.”

Name recognition

On Thursday night, punters spoke of their fondness for the nightclub.

“It’s a grand spot,” said John Byrne, who was up for the night from Co Carlow. “It stays open late when there’s nowhere else to really go. It’s a good laugh and good craic in there. It’s a handy pull as well there, you know?”

Gary Hooper from Co Cork surmised that the club’s name recognition was its greatest asset.

“It’s iconic to come to Dublin and go to Coppers, at least for country people,” he added. “As a piece of real estate and the actual facilities for a nightclub, it could probably do with updating.”

“It’s no better than any country nightclub. It just has the name and it draws the crowd.”

Naoise Mac Mahon, a Coppers devotee, urged the new owners to keep everything intact.

“Keep it going the way it is,” she advised. “You can’t ruin it. You can’t make it techno or anything. That would ruin the vibes.”

Back on the dancefloor, culchies, Dubs and tourists danced to their heart’s content. Next to the bar, a screen advertised a series of line dancing classes for beginners titled Coppers Goes Country. Outside in the smoking garden, visitors were treated to a helping of Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan as Virgin Media’s The Tonight Show was broadcast on a giant screen.

You wouldn’t get it in Berghain, that’s for sure.

“Its essential Irishness is a huge thing,” said Dermot Curtin. “It’s indefinable, really, but it’s a real Irish night out.”

Long may it last.