In 1999, the Irish Independent published a feature on pubs. The journalist, Eddie Lennon, who wrote the article, contended that ‘Dublin pubs might be booming, but barmen have never been so grumpy – or plain useless’.
However, his views were overturned when he visited Mulligans and met Gary Cusack.
But not all pubs employ that sort of inept barman. Some take the trade seriously and realise that there’s more to running a good establishment than totting up the till at the end of the night.
Mulligan’s pub on Poolbeg Street, is one of the few pubs in the city centre that springs to mind as having decent bar staff. Gary, one of the Cusack family who own the pub, has worked there for 11 years. The things he looks for in a barman are ‘honesty, loyalty, what’s he like with the customers.
‘You give them a few weeks and see what sort of rapport they have with customers – do they get on with them, can they slag a bit and take a bit of flagging – because there’s always that with customers, especially regulars. A bit of banter livens things up.
‘Some customers don’t think barmen are human. They say: “Why is your man grumpy, what’s wrong with him?”
‘It’s a hard enough trade as it is but some people don’t realise he could be have trouble with the wife or whatever, everyday stuff that gets to you. Now and again you’re going to be a bit short with somebody, like when something happens during the day that wrecks your head.
‘The business has changed a lot. When I started here there were two barmen. One was here 30 years – he has since died – the other was 26 years here when he left. You don’t really get that anymore, especially in the city centre.
‘It’s all students or young people going in for a couple of years, and then they’re gone. I try to get bar staff and have them for years. People love coming in and hearing “How are you doing John?” and saying “The usual, please”.
‘After a few months they get to know each other and there’s a loyalty. It is an advantage to the publican to have that kind of friendship built up between bar staff and customer.
‘In a lot of pubs, every day of the week there’s a new barman – when you’re a regular for years, you don’t expect to put the hand up and get served. There always should be respect for somebody who spends their week’s wages in the pub for years.
‘A sense of humour, knowledge of sport and knowing a bit about everything are important.’
Courtesy Irish Independent, 29 June, 1999.