Sacrificing the Pavé cultural center on the altar of tourism would be a serious mistake
There is a good thread – perhaps too good not to be apocryphal – on the Cobblestone pub in Smithfield.
In the evening, a customer became a little overly suspicious of drinking and was told to leave.
Unsure on his feet, he swung out the front door that faces Smithfield Square and considered his options.
Turning left, then sharply left, he staggered down Red Cow Lane past the pub and discovered a side door leading to the premises.
Safe through her, he was greeted by the same now stern looking bartender who had just kicked him out.
Puzzled, incredulous, the man finally said, “Do you own all the fucking pubs in Dublin?”
There are a million stories on the Pavement. Right now, they are in danger of becoming eulogies.
According to a planning application submitted to Dublin City Council on October 1, the Cobblestone, a protected structure, will be retained as part of a development project to construct a 5,818m² nine-story building.
In the best case, he will lose some of his coins. But given the scale of the proposed construction, the viability of the pub in its current form is seriously threatened. It almost goes without saying that this new construction will be a hotel.
Building hotels is our new national fetish. Prioritizing tourism over all other industries and interests is one of our most sinister issues.
A recent report in the Irish time said 24 new hotels with 4,500 rooms will be delivered to Dublin by the end of 2023, according to new figures.
Tom Barrett, director of hotels and recreation at Savills, reportedly made the following prediction: “With local and inbound tourism expected to return to pre-pandemic levels over the next two to three years, the increased supply of rooms Dublin hotel accommodation will bring value and choice, which will be good for Irish tourism.
It might be good.
And experts in the field will argue whether or not to have so many rooms to rent in Dublin.
But until now, they have been reluctant to explore the social cost of these developments for the people who already live and visit here.
In the case of Cobblestone, the cultural effect on Dublin would be ruinous.
The outcry over the Merchant’s Arch demolition project is one thing.
But at the risk of sounding parochial, over the past 20 years there have been more culturally significant moments in the Cobblestone washroom than in all the Temple Bar pubs combined.
It is unique.
Two music sessions per night at the front. Small concerts seated in the hall at the back. A comfortable outdoor smoking area.
Reasonably priced drink. No food. No televisions.
You might describe it as a ‘drinker’s pub’, only because there are a lot of non-drinkers regulars who come to sample the establishment’s cultural buffet.
For Irish musicians and Irish music lovers, this is a sanctuary.
Currently, the traditional Dublin music community as a whole is mourning the loss of the Hughes’ Pub on Chancery Street, the go-to place for anyone who enjoys their Irish music and their late Sunday nights.
In the days following the filing of the town planning application, the Cobblestone has been described as the Mecca for those of a folkloric or traditional musical persuasion.
It’s probably more like the Suez Canal. Music and song flow through him. It links different constituencies of the same tradition.
It is a meeting point and a melting pot.
There are more traditional musicians in Ireland than you might think. And almost all of them have been in the Pavement at some point; listen or play, learn or exchange tunes and songs.
Probably for this reason, we always felt vaguely like we owned the place.
Truth be told, we blamed the hipsters at Stoneybatter and the tourists at Generator Hostel for their cohabitation rights once they came to appreciate its charms.
But, for the volume of music that was played there, it’s all by itself. A constant mix of generations and different backgrounds and styles.
Shortly before Christmas, a few years ago, we found ourselves in a session with Steve Martin.
Yes, this Steve Martin.
One of the world’s most famous comedians, Martin’s talent for playing the five-string banjo is perhaps less well known, but he is no less a virtuoso.
He was in the country for a short check-in, and apparently he wanted a tune on his way back to the airport.
At one point, the Oscar-winning actor / Grammy-winning musician went to the bar and ordered a small bottle of red wine. He paid with a € 50 bill and told Tony, the bartender, to keep the change.
It’s probably fair to say here that the American custom of tipping hasn’t quite caught on in Cobblestone.
Ignoring the identity of the client and assuming he had misheard, Tony came back with the difference.
Steve repeated his tip. Tony stared blankly at the money on the counter, shrugged and walked down the bar.
However, for the most part, the Cobblestone is a space for a large and growing music scene which, like most of its ilk at the moment, is further and further removed from the city center.
It has been pointed out a million times in recent days that Dublin needs more cultural, creative and artistic spaces.
If not, which city will it be to live in, or even to visit?
For this reason, the proposed development of 77 to 80 King Street North is more than a threat to the future of Cobblestone, it is an attack on the heart of the culture in Dublin city center.
It was the great Dublin singer Frank Harte who once said: “If you want to know the facts, read the stories. If you want to know how you feel, listen to the songs.
We quickly run out of places to listen.