Supporters see them as a vital lubricant of the global labour market, while critics say they are diluting other cultures and putting local drinking dens out of business. Now there are calls for restrictions on the numbers of Irish pubs emigrating, yet the trend sees no signs of abating.
‘You have to go where the money is, to be sure, to be sure,’ said O’Malleys, a brewery-themed hostelry that closed down in Dublin two years ago and relocated to Ulaan Bataar, where he has established a thriving business among Mongolian hipsters who were previously unable to see live transmissions of Manchester United games while listening to jukeboxes playing the Pogues around the clock.
Meanwhile, The Golden Shamrock, which moved his retro Guinness ad posters, tinted pictures of James Joyce and cobbled floors from Cork to Vancouver last year, defended his move in terms of free market principles. ‘About 300 of us are closing in Ireland every year, there’s no demand for us at all at all. Here I’m bringing work to all kinds of local industries – suppliers of stouts for those who don’t like all this craft beer bollix, makers of aluminium horseshoes, you name it…’
The radically changed market in alcohol-fuelled mood alteration across the world is not all good news, however. In many countries, small bars are finding themselves out of work and occasionally turn on these brash incomers who import their culture of crisps and pretending to be Brendan Behan with no respect for local traditions.
In Japan last week, a marauding gang of izakaya assaulted a recent arrival, Donnelly’s, leaving him with three smashed stained-glass windows and in need of a stiff Jameson’s. They were not mollified by stories that a few emigrant izakaya are prospering in England’s Home Counties, where the concept of small, extortionately expensive bars presided over by a stern mama-san has gone down well among former public schoolboys.
‘The whole thing is bad for those of us who stay in Ireland too,’ warned The Ship, a traditional Connemara pub. ‘I used to be quite a sedate place, now even the locals seem to think that I should be just a venue for nightly sing-alongs to fiddle music. We are being lulled into participating in a pastiche of ersatz ‘Oirishness’ foisted on us by the British that sees us as a pre-modern colonial ‘other’ with a dissolute alcohol-centred identity that has nothing to do with the modern world. Drink. Feck. Arse. Girls.’