I find it hard to pass an open door. There’s a curiosity about me that wants to know what’s inside. This was rewarded last week when we ventured into the Customs House, and this week when we stumbled into the Liquor Rooms on Dublin’s Wellington Quay. Night life in Dublin need never be boring.
We’d gone to the Workmans Club to see ReDiViDeR – a two-horns-no-chords contemporary jazz quartet whose founder and drummer, Matthew Jacobson has been billed by the Irish Times as ‘one of Ireland’s most exciting young talents’. And while I’ve no doubt that the four lads have talent oozing out of their pores, I didn’t get it. Judging by the nodding heads and tapping feet in the room, though, I was the only one. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was worth it to see the inside of the building on 10 Wellington Quay, with so many of the original features still in place.
The Workmans Club bills itself as having:
…a simple mission to provide a space where musicians and independent thinkers can witness their ideas come to life. From down and dirty rock gigs to intimate acoustic performances, comedy nights, book readings, multimedia take overs, themed markets, to diverse indie clubnights, The Workmans Club has become a haven for those who create music and art and those who consume it.
The building itself has been around for more than 160 years and for most of that time, from 1888 to 2003, it housed the Workingmens Club. It’s a mad place. The colours, the wallpaper, the furniture. It’s as close as I’ve seen to a Dublin take on a Budapest-style ruin pub with a nod to stately grandeur.
The whole concept of a working men’s club is a quirky one.
Victorian social reformer and strict teetotaler Henry Solly first launched the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union (CIU) in 1862. His aim was to give the working man an education, middle-class values and, most of all, keep him out of the pub.
Something went wrong and the Clubs attracted boozers of a stellar sort. They were massive in England in the 1970s and 1980s and I remember frequenting a few. Neil Anderson wrote a guide to them, reviewed in the Irish Times and worth a quick read if you’re interested.
Next door is the Clarence Hotel – of U2 fame. By the side was a flashy looking door with steps leading down to a cellar and some interesting framed portraits dotting a wallpapered wall. We had to go look. The Liquor Rooms, a sister to the posh Peruke and Periwig over on Dawson Street, is a little gem and home to Burlesque in Dublin (note to self duly made to catch a gig next time I’m in town). Night life in Dublin has it all. It was quiet enough on a Sunday evening to have a good nose around and while the place probably wouldn’t stand up to daylight scrutiny, it does shabby chiq very well. Blessedly, the staff know their cocktails and for a tenner a piece (€10), these miniature works of art were worth the investment. I fell in love with the bathroom, the wall of fireplaces, and the indoor garden. Oh, someone give me a building and a budget…