Andrew McGeough outside his premises McGeoughs at Roden Place in Dundalk which will be open on Good Friday. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Good Friday 2018 will have a decidedly different feel to it than in years gone by. For the first time since 1927, pubs in Ireland will be allowed to open to the public on the holy day marking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
In January, the Dáil passed new legislation – an amended Intoxicating Liquor Act - to allow the sale of alcohol on Good Friday. President Michael D Higgins subsequently signed the bill into law.
Alcohol has not been permitted for sale on this day in Ireland since 1927 – 91 years ago – and the change of law comes after lengthy calls to repeal it, citing how out of kilter it was with modern Ireland.
Politicians and publicans also argued that tourism in Ireland suffered. Easter Weekend, with a Bank Holiday Monday, is traditionally a huge period for tourism but with pubs closed, foreign visitors to Ireland were often left bemused by the law.
Ireland, of course, is famed worldwide for its pubs, nightlife, whiskey and Guinness.
The law change does not oblige publicans to open on Good Friday – it simply gives them the option to do so. Most will open now that the opportunity has arisen, but some will continue to honour the tradition.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat, Andrew McGeough of McGeough’s of Roden Place in Dundalk said they were opening on Good Friday for the first time since the ban came in.
The proprietor said it was something of a step into the unknown.
“It will be interesting,” he told us. “We’ll open and see how it goes.
“Times have changed,” he admits, “Not everybody stands up to Good Friday now. We have all different types of religions, races and cultures in Ireland nowadays, so it’s different.
“We said we’d go with the flow. The general feeling [around town] is that people will open.”
Whilst, since the law passed, the intention was always to open, Andrew says a new day of trading makes up for having lost a day worth of business at the start of the month.
“We lost a day of trading with the snow,” he said, “I hope we won’t be held up as traitors to the cause. Certain people have their habits. Everyone has a different outlook these days.”
He says that in years gone by, he would use Good Friday as a day for repairs and refurbishments if needed. Being a rare day the licensed premises would be closed, it was the only time such work could be done.
But he says in modern times, he can pick and choose when to close – perhaps on a quiet night – to undertake such tasks. He no longer relies on Good Friday as the day to get things done with the pub closed to the public.
Elsewhere in Dundalk, The Vinegar Man said they will be open on the holy day. “We’re open, but I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference,” admitted barman Stephen O’Hare, “I’d say it will just be a normal Friday. We might be a bit busier but we won’t be full to the brim.”
The Bartender is also opening on Good Friday for the first time. “We are all delighted about it here,”said a staff member. “We think it might be a bit busier than usual, people will go out for the novelty.”
Courtneys’ say they are also opening because everyone else is.
“It was never spoken about so I guess we are open,” a barman told the Democrat, “I’d say it might be busy for the first year. It can be a bit hit and miss on Fridays, some nights it is very busy, others not so much.”
Not everywhere in Dundalk will open however. The Spirit Store, the bar and live venue located on George’s Quay says it will remain closed as usual.
In response to a request for comment as to why they were not opening on Good Friday, owner Mark Dearey said, “There’s more to life.”
In a poll on our social media channel this week, 58% of our readers said they believe alcohol should be available for sale on Good Friday. Just 27/% of them say they intend on going to the pub on Good Friday this year.
65% said they would not be spending any of their Good Friday in the pub.
“Removing the ban is simple common sense,” Licensed Vintners Association CEO Donall O'Keefe remarked earlier this year.
Why we're closing on Good Friday
Landy's Irish Harp in Ardee is to remain closed on Good Friday, despite the vast majority of public houses opening their doors to custom.
Proprietor Adrian Landy spoke to the Democrat and told us why he came to the decision to stick with tradition.
“I'm glad to see there's a choice. I'm all for choice - to let publicans open and close if they wish,” he said.
“Christmas Day and Good Friday have always been a family day, for myself and my wife and our family. We always head away on Good Friday so I'm putting family before business. That's all it is.”
Landy says things may change in the future but his customers support his decision.
“It's two days we enjoy every year. It's a tradition with us to take them off.
“You never say never, things can change. Definitely, I'm going to lose money by closing. There's no doubt about it - but I'm putting my family first.
“The customers don't mind. They know my reasoning behind it, so they understand.”