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8 bars that offer more than a pub experience (especially if you’re doing Dry January)

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14th Jan 2020
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8 bars that offer more than a pub experience (especially if you’re doing Dry January)

With such busy lives, we want more from our bar experience in 2020. We’ve found there are plenty of ways to enjoy the pub, even if you’re abstaining from the drink.

We are Generation Busy: between work, gym, eating out, socialising with friends and family commitments we often have activities scheduled every day of our lives.

In the last decade we have moved towards valuing experiences over material items. While our parents’ generation may have gone to the local pub to sit at the bar on a Saturday, we expect more from our time, and money.

And this month, with our shiny new gym memberships and pavement pacing goals, we’re even busier than ever. With social connections at the centre of everything we do now, we pre-plan our nights out over social media and put effort into picking a venue we know we’ll all enjoy together. It’s no longer about propping up a stool at the bar, but about spending time with friends and making memories. That’s why a 2019 report from Eventbrite showed that 72% of millennials prefer to spend their money on real-life events over buying material possessions. That’s why when we choose to gather with friends, we revel in an experience now rather than an old-fashioned knees-up.

From tasty treats to trad sessions, to painting and Pac-Man, to alcohol-free cocktails, we’ve put together some of our favourite alternative bars across the country that you can make forever memories in – even if you’re still kidding yourself you’ll make it to the end of Dry January.


The Well, Stephen’s Green


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Sunday dinner is served ?? Taking bookings for January work parties! DM or email [email protected] for more information

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A new pop-up bar that offers way more than bottles and pints. Situated right on Stephen’s Green, The Well is a co-working space during the day where you can plonk yourself and your laptop at a table and order as much coffee as you like.

At night, the space transforms into a bar, restaurant and venue, with intimate alcoves, nooks, crannies and snugs for an extra cosiness in January. You’ll have no trouble getting served with one large 10-metre main bar as well as a three-metre speed bar for both food and drink. There are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on offer to keep you on track for Dry January, like Hundo P – 7 – a rhubarb, aloe vera, lemon and saline soda – Bavaria Zero, Cobra Zero, and all the fancy coffees you can shake your KeepCup at.

The Well’s website says it lives by three principals: artisanal, ephemeral and communal. It does this by sourcing its food and drink locally from small-scale Irish producers. Dublin Pizza Company works out of a kitchen here with a full menu on offer.

And the basement space can be booked for gigs or events, but is open every Friday and Saturday until late with The Well-approved events taking place.

Token, Smithfield

Let’s face it, Token is a video-game nerd’s fun palace. The bar and restaurant has a fully stocked retro arcade and pinball parlour in its Smithfield residence.

Over 40 arcade games like Donkey Kong, Mario Cart, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Tekken Tag Tournament, and pinball machines like Funhouse, The Simpsons, Dialed In, make for an epic night out that will make you forget your January Blues.

While you’re waiting for your turn on the Mortal Kombat machine, you can order something tasty from the extensive ‘high-end fast food’ menu, which caters to veggies and vegans and gluten-free people. There is also a vast cocktail menu available, which can be altered to create your favourite mocktail.

The venue also hosts events – gaming and not gaming-related – ranging from film screenings to board game meet-ups to pinball leagues to eating challenges to beer tastings and more. An IMAGE favourite is the Token table quiz, see the dates and themes here.

Drink & Draw, multiple locations

Okay so this one has ‘drink’ in the name, but don’t let that perturb you! Drink & Draw is a pop-up party held all over Ireland where you can bring your own beer, or soda, or coffee, or water, and take part in a social paint party.

The idea is to get a group of friends to a venue (usually a bar) and paint or draw to the theme of the night. Previous parties included a Mad Hatters Party.

Coming up in January, you can Paint the Ha’Penny Bridge at Krust Bakery on George’s St, or take part in a Nude Neon Life Drawing at Drop Dead Twice on Francis St, or Drink Tea & Draw: Peacock at Dublin’s Clockwork Door on Wellington Quay.

No drawing or painting experience is required, there will be instructors there to guide you on your way to becoming a sober artiste. See a full list of events for 2020 here.

The Music Café, Wellington Quay


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Beat the heat with “Tinto de Verano” which is light and sweet ???

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This does exactly what it says on the tin: a café that plays music. Located on the corner of Wellington Quay in Temple Bar, the tiny venue serves exquisite coffee and cakes, beer and wine, as well as soup, salad and sandwiches. The raspberry roulette is a firm IMAGE favourite, as is the chai latte. Veggies are also catered for here.

But the hidden gem is the tiny stage set-up which is up one level. Live bands rock out at the café at night, making it the perfect pre-theatre venue for a bite and a boogie (in your seat!) if you’re heading to the nearby Smock Alley. The perfect place to enjoy music in a cosy atmosphere, overlooking the Liffey.

The Virgin Mary, Capel Street


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It’s BYOF time again! Enjoy eating your lunch with us between 12.30pm and 2pm today. #drinkdifferent #keepingitlocal #capelstreet

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This is how to create a work-life balance, grown-up style. The Virgin Mary opened its alcohol-free doors last year, serving up cocktails, beers and wines with zero alcohol content.

Occupying what used to be an old furniture shop, two industry professionals Vaughan Yates and Oisin Davis opened the bar hoping to offer an alternative space for Dublin’s nightlife lovers who don’t want to consume a drink.

They serve bespoke grown-up non-alcoholic cocktails masterminded by Anna Walsh that give you the taste and feel of a liqueur-based drink. The traditional Bloody Mary is swapped out for a Virgin Mary – a hot and spicy wash that will leave you as full as the original. The Cedar’s Spritz is a gin alternative that is as refreshing as a regular gin and tonic. There are also some more well-known alcohol-free beers on offer, like Heineken 0.0, that may tickle your fancy more, and an impressive cold-brew coffee on the menu.

Inside, the decor is sophisticated and stylish. The bar doesn’t accept cash though, it’s a cards-only space. This boujee element does not reflect prices, the mocktails are quite affordable starting at €7.


Levis Corner House, Ballydehob


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???????? The White Horse Guitar Club . . . 3pm Sunday 18th Easy like a Sunday Afternoon Tickets going fast. . 086 8370518 / [email protected]

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If it’s a pub atmosphere you want, but enough distraction to keep you away from the bar, Levis in West Cork is your place. Known now as the ‘artists’ bar’, the quaint little pub serves as a venue for musicians and artists to perform, with all proceeds going straight to the artist. From Glen Hansard and Duke Special, to local artists from Cork and beyond, Levis is a champion of homegrown talent.

The bar itself has been in the O’Leary family for 100 years, and while the decor reflects a museum from days gone by, its latest owners are anything but old-fashioned. Constantly striving for something new, Joe and Caroline O’Leary took home the Munster Pub of the Year Award at last year’s Irish Restaurant Awards. Keep an eye on the bar’s Instagram page for news of upcoming gigs, and any pop-up events. In the summer of 2019, the bar hosted the Bia Rebel Ramen food truck, serving up award-winning ramen and some local delicacies.


America Village Apothecary, Dominick Street Lower

A chic cocktail bar that creates all its own tinctures, syrups and bitters in Connemara using locally sourced flora like gorse and seaweed.

All of America Village’s cocktails are made to order in its Tasting Room on Dominick St.

All tinctures and bitters are compounded in certified organic alcohol and are carefully formulated in its spirits and fermentation bonded warehouse, but any cocktail ordered in the Tasting Room can easily be made alcohol-free in the slick surroundings of this glass shopfront with pale pink walls, with flowers and jars of dried herbs for company. It gives a very unpubby feeling if you’re looking to socialise somewhere a little different.


Reidy’s, Killarney

JM Reidy’s in Killarney, or the Sweetshop Pub, is a Kerry institution that looks like an authentic 19th-century sweetshop from the outside. But when you enter, there is a magical haven that awaits your inner child, the whiskey connoisseur, the coffee enthusiast, the foodie, and the socialite. This pub really does have something for everyone.

Treat your sweet tooth with bon bons, apple drops and liquorice, or homemade pastries baked daily on-site in Mrs Reidy’s Bakery. Forget all about Dry January and wash them down with a specialty coffee brewed by a team of skilled baristas.

If you’re still feeling peckish, you can order a small or large bite from the extensive bar menu. Veggies and those with a gluten intolerance are catered for, while the alcohol-free options range from smoothies, soft drinks, teas and coffees, to a Ginger Beer Mojito, or a refreshing Mr Reidy’s Lemonade.

The best part of Reidy’s is that you can enjoy all of this in the charming cobbled courtyard, known to host a lively music session of an evening under a sky of fairy lights, fully retractable awning, outdoor heaters, TVs, themed shopfronts and original 1870s features throughout. A feast for the eyes and the mouth!

Main photo: Drink & Draw Ireland