Four days ago, a crowd gathered in Smithfield Square. Armed with protest signs and the power of good music, thousands of Dubliners came together in a breathtaking display of resilience to save The Cobblestone, a historic pub in the city.
Developers have approached Dublin City Council to build a 9-storey hotel where The Cobblestone currently stands. If the hotel is sanctioned, part of the pub itself will be swallowed up in the process.
There was no anger in the crowd’s slogans, just an overwhelming love for their city’s culture. The message was simple: Dublin is not for sale. In fact, the crowd harmonised in a rendition of ‘People Got the Power’, even breaking into impromptu jigs at one point. There were even a few furry protesters amongst the crowd, wearing Cobblestone t-shirts and wagging their tails in objection.
History for sale
“We want to live in a city, not just a tourist trap with fake, plastic music,” said a protester holding a protest sign reading ‘Watch the new glass cages smother out the craic!’.
He continued, “We don’t want to be another city selling plastic trinkets and just filling landfills all over the world with crap. Dublin city planners are letting developers just do what they want. We can’t have unsuitable hotels when there are not enough houses for people. We are trying to live in our city without making it a hellhole.”
The Cobblestone Legacy
The Cobblestone, a family-run pub that has been the epicentre of local music since 1988 when it was set up has an army of dedicated patrons who are ready to protect its legacy.
Tomás Mulligan, a member of the band Ispini na hÉireann who also works in the pub says, “It seems like every section of Dublin that is culturally relevant is being sold to the highest bidder. A lot of us have grown sick of it for a very long long time. Maybe this will be a push too far for people.”
The protesters marched from Smithfield Square to Dublin Council Offices in a united, fervent stride. Tomás says, “It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. This protest was more emotional than anything I’ve been a part of. People love this pub, to see it swallowed up by a hotel would be devastating.”
Although support poured in from every corner, family and friends of the pub have also been dealing with some criticism online. A few Twitter users have opined that the council should just ‘get rid’ of the pub and the ‘drinking culture’ that it comes with.
Tomás responds to the comments, “It’s not just the drinking that goes on in here. A good chunk of musicians come in for a sip of tea. We are engaging with our culture every day. That is the scenario. Also, what’s wrong with people drinking and getting their artistic juices flowing?”
The Online Petition
The online petition against the development plan is still gaining support online. The organisers hope to approach the City Council in November having collected as much support as they can. Members of the Green Party and major publications have been speaking in support of the movement as well.
If the development plan were to go ahead, the pub would be closed for 2 to 3 years. Decreasing the size of it will also mean that many employees may lose their jobs.
Tomás asks, “Where will people who work in the pub go? They won’t have a wage to earn. The musicians who have worked with us for decades will have to find another place. And what happens in three years? We’ll have to build it back up from the ashes because they will have burnt this institution to the ground.”
The Way Ahead
He invokes the old adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. “The Cobblestone has been the very heart of Smithfield since it was first built. The locals and many businesses around it thrive because of the legacy around this pub. It could be declared a heritage site. All we are asking for, is that they leave us alone.”
The pub owners are open to make changes and fix any structural issues in the building itself provided that the pub itself is not taken away from them.
A member of Dublin By Pub, a social media page that documents pubs in the city and explores their history, says “We’re well used to hotels popping up in Dublin and replacing beloved premises. But the Cobblestone is different.”
“Its status as a cultural epicentre makes it different. It’s a space that has kept the often dimming flame of obscure and marginalised Irish culture alight. It’s an egalitarian space that has welcomed all beyond its threshold, regardless of class, ethnicity or musical prowess.”
As patrons, they avow that they will not allow ‘greedy developers to pave over it or to transform it into a for-profit simulacrum of itself’.
They continue, “The proposed redevelopment of The Cobblestone, Dublin’s foremost venue for authentic traditional Irish music, perfectly encapsulates the attitude with regard to planning and development in Dublin and how the powers that be see no value other than monetary value. Cultural significance is downright ignored.”
Echoing a sentiment rife across most of the city, they conclude “But not on our watch. We are willing to shout and to march and to fight for our culture.”