Crain’s New York Business and the New York Daily News both wrote articles this week predicting the end of the old Irish pub.
They may be right.
Not all Irish pubs, of course. There will always be a boom time for places like Rosie O'Grady’s in Manhattan or Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers which have earned their stellar reputations.
But a certain kind of pub has seen its best days and, like the old music halls, will soon be silent forever.
The Blarney Stone and Blarney Rock and blarney blathering bars are all on their way out. At their height they were a working man’s refuge, with plain food and cold beer and a respite from work and home.
Now most of them are struggling desperately to survive in the new era in Manhattan. Higher rents and old style appearances are hurting.
The articles portrayed this as some kind of minor tragedy. However, it really signals a rebirth and a re-orientation of a community that continues in every generation.
Irish American pubs are usually owned by Irish natives or their offspring in New York and reflect the ethos of the country they left behind.
The 1950s and ‘60s ethos was one of a rural Ireland, a warm and comfortable place with little frills or fancy features.
The new era reflects a new dynamic, a younger generation of Irish far closer in age and taste and background to their American counterparts. The Irish heritage is now just one part, if a vital one, of the shared experience.
Sure, the old Blarney Stones were friendly, intimate places for generations of Irish men, but women hardly felt comfortable there and many aging mill owners looked up askance when ladies walked in.
The fact is that like the New York St. Patrick’s Parade, if you don’t manage change then the whirlwind hits. This is what has happened to so many Irish establishments in New York as the new generation wants its own way of enjoying a night out.
They are as far from the corn beef and cabbage generation as Facebook is from Atari. Some companies like Guinness have realized the profound change and are adapting, seeking authentic new Irish American experiences as the Guinness "Made of More" campaign featuring Irish American ordinary heroes shows.
Others, like family owned saloons, still do not see the storm clouds gathering or refuse to believe them.
They will be akin to a newspaper editor proclaiming print’s superiority in an Internet age if they are not careful, becalmed forever in the beer puddles of the past.
Crain’s mentioned new Irish gastro pubs like Stout on West 33rd Street and the soon to be opened Late Late run by a young Irishman named James Morrissey, fresh from Dublin.
As Crain’s noted, “James Morrissey, a 27-year-old nightlife promoter from Dublin, plans to open a pub on East Houston Street later this month called the Late Late Bar & Spirit Grocery. The name nods in the direction of an Irish talk show from the early 1960s on which divorce and other taboo subjects were openly discussed.
“The bar's decor is designed to evoke an Irish residence from that time. The menu will focus on craft beers and cocktails, and the Guinness will be served in crystal goblets with a mint leaf on top, which is the style in Nigeria, of all places.”
"Irish pubs here are based on stereotypes," Morrissey said. "We want to disrupt that model."
That’s is the fate of the future for Irish America, and we need to embrace it. Reinventing ourselves has always come naturally to an emigrant tribe and their descendants. We can do so again.