You Can Find An Irish Pub Wherever You Go | Planet Money | NPR

You could be in New York, Barcelona, Kazakhstan
or D.C., and you can find an Irish pub. And if there’s something comforting about
how similar they all are, it’s probably because a lot of these bars — in fact, more than
2,000 of them across 53 countries — come from one man: Mel McNally and his business,
the Irish Pub Company of Dublin, Ireland. It all started when Mel McNally was just a
baby and his parents would take him down to the local pub. Mel pretty much grew up in pubs, but he didn’t
really give them that much serious thought until he was older. It’s the 1970s, and Mel’s in architecture
school. And he and his classmates had to come up with
an idea for their final project. So they decided to do something a lot of us
have done. They decided, “We should write our paper on
something we already know a ton about.” “Pubs!” And their teacher was like, “Really? Pubs?” And they were like “Irish … pubs?” They hit all the famous pubs in Dublin. And it was a kind of a scam at first, but
they wind up taking it really seriously. They brought along their sketch pads and their
tape measures. They looked at the craftsmanship and the artwork. They felt the distressed floors. They analyzed the mouth feel of the Guinness. They debated the stained-glass work. And they distilled their research into three
unspoken rules that all good pubs obey. Rule No. 1: You should be able to see the
bar as soon as you walk in and then from almost any place in the pub. Except the toilet. Rule No. 2: Define your style. All good pubs belong to one or a mix of six
Irish pub categories: modern gastro, brewery, shop, country, Celtic and Victorian. And Rule No. 3: Balance privacy with room
for gathering. You’d have these tiny little rooms called
snugs to fit just a few people at a time, give them some privacy while they’re having
a drink — or a bad date. Even the long bar would usually be broken
up into segments. But then they all flow into a central area
where people can mingle and slosh beer on each other. “In effect, these design things — they’re
the structure of a good night at the pub. This is what makes Irish pubs so special.” Mel had cracked the code. He and his friends wrote up the report, and
they aced the project. And when he graduated, Mel realized that he
was now probably the No. 1 expert in Irish pub design. Now, Ireland already had quite enough pubs. But over the years, he started to think that
the rest of the world maybe didn’t. So Mel began to get on some planes. Wherever some eager entrepreneur wanted to
open a traditional Irish pub, Mel would go there and show them how it’s done in Dublin. Soon, he was selling his designs and all the parts you needed to build an Irish pub from scratch. He’d send entire pubs around the world, ready
to assemble in giant shipping containers. It may sound kind of crazy, but the business
took off. And he came up with a really clever way to
make sure that no one could just replicate his designs cheaply in some factory. He convinced pub owners around the world that
in order to build a truly authentic pub, you had to buy everything from Ireland — right
down to the bric-a-brac. The lights, the chairs, the curtains — the
man who won’t stop talking to you. It’d all come prepackaged and ready to assemble
from Mel McNally. And in the interest of full Irish employment,
he highly recommends an Irish bartender and a real Irishman to help you get it all up
and running.


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