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The iconic Dublin pub that used lockdown as an opportunity to create something new

By James Fenton

August 1, 2020 at 5:49pm

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If you've never been in the Hapenny Bridge Inn, you've definitely passed by it hundreds of times. 

Located on Wellington Quay, just yards away from its namesake Liffey crossing, the Ha'penny Bridge opened up earlier this week after months of closure due to the pandemic.

Regulars though might notice something a little bit different. In the pub industry, it's hard to find any time to do any renovations, with customers coming and going practically every day of the year. In fact, up until 2018 when pubs were once again allowed to open on Good Friday, this was traditionally the only day when most publicans found time give their place a lick of paint.

All that changed in March of this year when it was announced that pubs would be shut for two weeks in order to contain the Covid-19 outbreak which had just made its way to Ireland. A fortnight soon became months but pubs started to reopen their doors in June and the Ha'Penny Bridge joined them this week with a new whiskey bar to show off.

Therese Ryan of the Ha'Penny Bridge Inn told Lovin Dublin all about their little pandemic project, starting with the initial shock of being forced to close: "We closed with the rest of the bars in Temple Bar on March 15. As a family-run bar closing the pub was like locking up the good room in the house. Bars only close one day a year so for it to be closed for 136 days was monumental for us. The main concern however was to protect both our customers and staff so it had to be done.

"When we closed first it was a shock to the system," Therese continues. "Good bar staff aren’t off on a Saturday so needless to say weekends were a bit strange for both the staff and their other halves to actually have them home for once. Strange is probably putting it lightly for the whole world at the moment."

Much like the rest of us, The Ha'Penny Bridge Inn team had to come up with new ways to pass the time during lockdown but eventually, they rolled up their sleeves and decided now was the time, as Therese explains: "After a few weeks of banana bread-baking my brother Sean and my Dad set to resigning the lounge. For a few years now we’ve wanted to redevelop the space into a whiskey bar however, as I said, bars don’t close so there was never really an opportunity to do it. Covid-19 gave us that time to really consider what we wanted from the bar going forward.

"JK Carpentry worked with us to make our whiskey bar a reality. We’ve tried to keep true to our roots with a lot of the pictures and things that were already a part of the bar. We’ve moved the seating around too to allow customers take in the great view of the Hapenny Bridge. The whole room has been extended out which will help with maintaining social distancing but the design still maintains a cosy snug feel throughout. We're biased, but we really love it."

The Ha'Penny Bridge Inn has stood for over 204 years, with the Ryan family owning the popular city centre haunt for the past three decades. No amount of experience though can prepare you for a pandemic and post-lockdown hospitality looks a lot different to the pub scene up until early-2020 and Therese tells us that like everyone else, they've had to make great efforts to adhere to social distancing rules: "As far as social distancing requirements, we want to keep everyone who comes into the pub to be safe so we’ve installed screens and hand sanitiser throughout. We’ve updated our kitchen too and added pizzas, chicken wings and chips to our otherwise traditional toastie menu."

Onwards and upwards as they say, and you might be surprised about what Therese is most excited about: "We just can’t wait to actually have to beg people to leave again at the weekends. As my dad Mick normally barks, 'You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here', a cry that is usually ignored."

The whiskey bar at the Ha'Penny Bridge Inn is now open to be enjoyed but will there be a proper party to welcome the new addition? "When we can we’re hoping to have a proper launch of the whiskey bar, both to celebrate it and to celebrate our island getting through everything over the last few months."

In other words - they'll cross that bridge when they get to it. You can keep up to date with the Ha'Penny Bridge Inn on Instagram here.

READ NEXT: Popular city centre pub announces that it will not be reopening

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